By ‘The Don’ – @donkopleone
With far too much time on my hands, I decided to go through all the fixtures of the forthcoming season, and see how things will work-out for the Reds.
To some extent, I knew that I would fix this for us to finish as champions, but I also wanted to see how tough it would be for us to do so.
At the end of the season, we win the title with 87 points, while Manchester City are right behind on 86… Is that plausible? Let us know by tweeting your thoughts to @TheKopiteOFF!
It would mean a 14-point drop for City from last season, however the champions have failed to land a dominant central midfielder, supposedly seen as key to Pep Guardiola’s plans.
Furthermore, not since 2011-12 has 87 points been an insufficient haul for a title win. In other words, if we were to reach that total and not land that elusive 19th league championship, we would be very, very unlucky.
So how do we do it? What does 87 points look like when put under the microscope? Here is my game-by-game account of our path to glory…
1) 12.8.18 – LFC 3-1 West Ham United
Personally, I think eleven points is needed from our first five games, as a minimum. Teams can have a slow start and still come back to win the league, but our early fixtures are winnable, and we really should get some early points on the board. West Ham will be a tricky proposition this season, and have the offensive weaponry to cause even the best teams problems, but at home and with Anfield buzzing with anticipation we get the job done.
2) 20.8.18 – Crystal Palace 1-1 Liverpool
Someone tweeted me the other day, saying “if we want to win the league we need to be winning that kind of match”, and I had to disagree. No-one in the league fancies a trip to Selhurst Park, let alone on a Monday night and for their first home fixture of the season. This is a horribly-placed game and a draw would hardly be a disaster. Palace are one of a few teams in the division from whom taking four points across the season can be considered a reasonable success.
3) 25.08.18 – LFC 4-0 Brighton and Hove Albion
That said, to win the league we need to win almost all of our home games. Across 19 matches at Anfield, I had our record as seventeen wins, two draws. In comparison, we won twelve and drew seven at home last season. That is a ten-point difference, ten of the twelve we need to gain to go from 75 to 87 points. Maintaining our unbeaten record at home is a must, while we need to turn many of those draws into three points if we want to win the league.
4) 1.9.18 – Leicester City 1-2 LFC
This is the first result I would consider ‘hopeful’. We did the double over the Foxes last season, but profited from a missed Jamie Vardy penalty in our 3-2 away win. The King Power is never a nice place to go, but perhaps we are fortunate to visit early on in the season, facing a Leicester side who will still be finding their feet in the post-Mahrez era.
5) 15.9.18 – Tottenham Hotspur 1-1 LFC
Where I listed a draw at Palace as “not a disaster”, a point away to Spurs would be a “good” result. Notably, this is the first game back at White Hart Lane, which could either inspire Spurs, or thrust a weird atmosphere upon the game. Under Jurgen Klopp we are yet to claim three points away at Spurs, which shows how tough this fixture has become, and to come out of these first five games as an unbeaten side would be very pleasing indeed.
6) 22.9.18 – LFC 2-0 Southampton
Southampton became a bit of a ‘bogey team’ for Liverpool, shortly after their promotion in 2012, but recently our record against them has significantly improved. In fact, the last two winning goals scored for Southampton in league fixtures against Liverpool were by Sadio Mané and Dejan Lovren. Mark Hughes may have kept them up, but I struggle to see him turning Southampton back into the force they were under Mauricio Pochettino.
7) 29.9.18 – Chelsea 1-3 LFC
Hopeful. I see Chelsea having a decent season, provided they find someone who will score goals for them, but Sarri’s attacking tactical outlook could make his side the perfect opposition for Klopp’s Liverpool to dismantle. Very few sides play a high line against us and do not suffer the consequences. With Chelsea the home side, this could be counter-attacking paradise for our front three.
8) 6.10.18 – LFC 1-1 Manchester City
After the highs of a big win at Stamford Bridge, consolidating that result with a draw against the reigning champions would be a success. All in all, I would say four points from these two games should be the target. A win against Pep Guardiola’s side would be big in terms of laying down a marker, but most important is not letting City get out of sight- as they were able to last term.
9) 20.10.18 – Huddersfield Town 1-1 LFC
Now this would be a disappointment, but we all know that there will be some games this season where we just cannot get the goals we deserve against a well organised outfit who are happy to sit back. Plus, this will be made a particularly tough fixture by the fact it follows an international break, so some of our star players may be dealing with jet-lag.
10) 27.10.18 – LFC 6-0 Cardiff City
A big factor in us winning the league would be an ability to respond to disappointing results in a positive fashion. I reckon that is the key; if we can do so, we have a real chance. Winning the league becomes an impossibility when a bad spell lasts a month, rather than ninety minutes. After pain in Huddersfield, we dispatch bottom of the table Cardiff with clinical ease and a certain Egyptian pops up with a hat trick. Lovely.
11) 3.11.18 – Arsenal 1-2 LFC
This was difficult to predict. As with Chelsea, if Arsenal set up to come onto us, we will exploit their lack of pace at the back. But if Unai Emery were to set up more defensively, this fixture becomes a horrible one: do I want Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang left one-on-one with Dejan Lovren when we commit bodies forward? Still… Mané against a 34-year-old Stephan Lichtsteiner or defensively incompetent Hector Bellerin? Mo Salah against an ageing Nacho Monreal? Bobby Firmino against Sokratis? I would feel confident.
12) 10.11.18 – LFC 3-1 Fulham
Based on last year’s evidence, Fulham will have a go, and that tends to suit us. If you come to Anfield and want to go toe-to-toe, good luck to you- even City could not manage it.
13) 24.11.18 – Watford 1-0 LFC
Unbeaten no more. Since Watford came up we have one win, one loss, one draw at Vicarage Rd. and even though I have the Hornets going down, they could sting us here, pardon the pun. The weather turning, many of our players late getting back from international duty; this is a horrible fixture. As with Palace away, a draw would not be a bad result.
14) 1.12.18 – LFC 2-0 Everton
But again, can we recover? You bet. How better to put our frustrations behind us than a derby win? I could definitely see one of our new signings absolutely s***housing this game – a Shaqiri dive to win a penalty, Naby escaping a clear second yellow or something. Forgive my language, but the more the three points p*** off the bitters, the better.
15) 4.12.18 – Burnley 1-2 LFC
One of our biggest results in the race for top four last year was the 2-1 win away at Burnley, big Raggie Klavan bundling home in injury time. Odds on him scoring another winner here? I actually expect Burnley to really struggle for the opening half of the season, as their squad looks too small to successfully combine the pressures of Premier and Europa League football.
16) 8.12.18 – Bournemouth 0-4 LFC
Six out of six from away games at Burnley and Bournemouth would be a phenomenal return. Under Eddie Howe, Bournemouth like to play football, meaning our games at the Vitality Stadium tend to be lively affairs, and we could easily hit four or five. Obviously, the trouble is keeping Bournemouth out at the other end, as Loris Karius failed to do in that infamous 4-3 loss here, and this is where Alisson has to prove his worth.
17) 15.12.18 – LFC 1-0 Manchester United
With Jose Mourinho under big pressure, Liverpool end our recent hoodoo against United (no league win against them under Jurgen Klopp). Naby Keita out-s***houses Ander Herrera and we score a dodgy late winner for our best win of the season. Mourinho criticises our defensive tactics despite stats showing us to have had eleven shots as opposed to four. Absolute HEAVEN.
18) 22.12.18 – Wolverhampton Wanderers 1-1 LFC
Wolves are right in the battle for “best of the rest”, with many of their Portuguese talents impressing Jurgen Klopp and Michael Edwards. Ruben Neves hits the Wolves equaliser and videos emerge post-game of Klopp having a nice little chat with him. It’s January next week and Twitter goes mental.
19) 26.12.18 – LFC 2-0 Newcastle United
Merry Christmas! That’s five wins out of six following the loss at Watford, and this is a Christmas we can all enjoy. Newcastle on Boxing Day will be tough, but after a long struggle, we grind them down and win comfortably.
So at the halfway stage we have a one point lead over City at the top of the table, and are statistically the best defensive outfit in the league.
20) 29.12.18 – LFC 4-1 Arsenal
Arsenal are the only side among the top six that I have us down to do the double over, while I’ve pencilled in four points from both Chelsea and Spurs. Since Jurgen Klopp came in we have won three and drawn two against the North London outfit, scoring 17 goals across those five matches. As I mentioned, Unai Emery may make his Arsenal side more difficult to break down than Arsene Wenger’s was, but that scoring record would suggest we have the beating of Arsenal’s defence enough to fire another three or four here. Arsenal have not won at Anfield since 2012.
21) 1.1.19 – Manchester City 3-2 LFC
Nevertheless, the Arsenal fixture will not be a comfortable enough proposition for Klopp to rest players for, and we may come to rue that with our toughest trip of the season just three days later. By contrast, City take on Southampton on December 29th, and if they are able to field a semi-strength side for that one, I would make them strong favourites.
22) 12.1.19 – Brighton and Hove Albion 2-2 LFC
With bouncing back being a key feature of any title challenge we may make, ideally we would recover from that City result with a win down South. Still, January has been a tricky month for Liverpool in recent years, with players jading from the strains of the Christmas period, and Pascal Gross has the ability to exploit any tiredness in any defence.
23) 19.1.19 – LFC 5-1 Crystal Palace
Returning to the second game of the season, Liverpool’s 1-1 at Selhurst Park looks a good point if we can do the business at home. Following the game at Brighton, Klopp gives his squad a couple of days off, or maybe even takes them away for a few days of warm weather training, and it pays dividends.
24) 30.1.19 – LFC 2-1 Leicester City
Another 2-1 win over Leicester, matching the result we scraped last season. By January, Claude Puel could be hanging on to his job, based on Leicester’s recent history, and to face them before the “new manager bounce” comes into play would be ideal.
25) 2.2.19 – West Ham United 2-2 LFC
The Olympic Stadium may not pose quite as intimidating an atmosphere as Upton Park used to, but if Manuel Pellegrini can galvanise the West Ham supporters, this fixture becomes a very tricky one indeed. Big teams will drop points to West Ham this season, and I have them marked in to be the sixth highest scorers in the division. This has a Marko Arnautovic late strike written all-over it.
26) 9.2.19 – LFC 4-1 Bournemouth
I don’t feel it makes much of a difference whether you play Bournemouth at home or away, as the games are quite similar. Both teams will have chances and we need to make sure that we are the more clinical side. Notice no clean sheet in seven- are the wheels coming off that initially very promising defence?
27) 23.2.19 – Manchester United 1-0 LFC
With Jose Mourinho’s job still looking very precarious, it would be so typical of him to shithouse a 1-0 here. Chris Smalling, in for the injured Eric Bailly, knobs it in from an offside position after we have been denied four possible penalties, sounds about right. Eleven points from seven games, this is our worst run of the season. If we want to win the league, we need a huge end to the season.
28) 27.2.19 – LFC 6-0 Watford
Avenging the defeat at Vicarage Road, this midweek fixture is sandwiched by trips to Old Trafford and Goodison so anything less than three points would be disastrous. Luckily, we have eleven goals in our last two home games against Watford, and we could bag another five or six here.
29) 2.3.19 – Everton 1-1 LFC
I generally think predicting four points from the two derbies tends to be fairly safe, and the last time the bitters got three points against us Roy Hodgson was in charge. Momentum wise, a draw here would not be a disaster as long as we did not throw away a lead- if Everton were to open the scoring, a late equaliser and a point would arguably be a very good result. I would not be surprised if Marco Silva does very well for them, sadly.
30) 9.3.19 – LFC 2-0 Burnley
I was at the draw at home to Burnley last campaign, which was poor. Those are the kind of games we need to be winning if we want to have any chance of a title challenge. This would be one side of a Champions League second round second leg, though, which could bring tiredness upon the squad.
31) 16.3.19 – Fulham 1-2 LFC
I remember a couple of huge, late wins away at Fulham during both of our most recent title challenges. 2008-09, Yossi Benayoun struck in injury time to make it 1-0. 2013-14, Steven Gerrard dispatched a 91st minute penalty to secure a 3-2 victory. These are the kind of games where titles are won and lost, away at a Fulham side fighting for survival.
32) 30.3.19 – LFC 3-1 Tottenham Hotspur
Failing to see out leads cost us big last term, and no game signified that as clearly as the 2-2 home draw with Spurs. Like all of them at this stage of the season, this will be a key fixture in our title challenge; as will City’s match at home to Spurs which takes place three weeks later. Of course, we may be twenty five points clear by this stage, but I expect this will be a ‘must-win’ match, and we will later watch Spurs’ trip to the Etihad knowing that we need them to get something.
33) 6.4.19 – Southampton 1-2 LFC
Sadio Mané back at St. Mary’s. 93 minutes on the clock. Can he score this penalty to take all three points? Oh yes he cannnnnnnn. THIS TITLE RACE IS HOTTING UP PEOPLE!!!!! Hopefully Southampton are not fighting for their lives at this stage.
34) 13.4.19 – LFC 2-2 Chelsea
When discussing Sarri-ball earlier, I mentioned us being able to hit Chelsea on the break as a key factor in us winning at Stamford Bridge. I would, however, be surprised if the Blues were to dominate possession at Anfield quite so much, and it could be us who are made to suffer from counter attacking mastery this time. Eden Hazard under an actually attacking coach will be right in the mix for player of the year.
35) 20.4.19 – Cardiff City 1-3 LFC
This fixture changes in difficulty completely with relation to Cardiff’s situation. I reckon they finish bottom of the table by quite some distance, and with the Welsh side effectively down already here, we run home comfortable winners. However, if Cardiff are 18th, a point off of safety, this will be a horrible, horrible proposition.
36) 27.4.19 – LFC 4-0 Huddersfield Town
As with Cardiff, Huddersfield may well be fighting for their lives, but if we don’t win these games, we can kiss goodbye to any hopes of a title win. An emphatic victory with the pressure on.
37) 4.5.19 – Newcastle United 0-2 LFC
There is a good chance that Newcastle will have secured safety by this point, and ideally there will be a celebratory atmosphere at St. James’ Park. Rafa, being the Red he still is, does not want to screw us over, and plays the kids. It is still a nervy affair but we get the job done…
Against Wolves, we need to match City’s result away at Brighton on the final day of the season to claim number nineteen.
38) 12.5.19 – LFC 3-1 Wolverhampton Wanderers
City hit five at the AmEx, but who cares? Wolves are comfortably assured of a top half finish, and although they take the lead, Bobby, Mo and Sadio each pop up with one as Liverpool win a first league title since 1990. Fans are jubilant, Klopp seals his place amongst Anfield legends and Dominic Solanke becomes the worst player to win a Premier League title.
Premier League record
P 38, W 26, D 9, L 3, GF 92, GA 32, GD 60, PTS 87
P 19, W 17, D 2, L 0
P 19, W 9, D 7, L 3
Sadio Mané 21
Mo Salah 21
Roberto Firmino 16
Naby Keita 8
Xherdan Shaqiri 7
Daniel Sturridge 5
James Milner 3
Virgil van Dijk 3
Gini Wijnaldum 2
Adam Lallana 1
Dejan Lovren 1
Jordan Henderson 1
Trent Alexander-Arnold 1
Andrew Robertson 1
Own goal 1
…Dominic Solanke 0, but he shows a lot of “potential”.