‘The LFC Project’ Part II – Kicking-off the Premier League season and the UEFA Champions League draw

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By Taylor Powling – @TaylorPSport

Welcome back to week number two of our Football Manager 2019 save with Liverpool here at The Kopite.

This week we will be wrapping up pre-season and starting our domestic campaign, whilst also finding out our UEFA Champions League group stage opponents.

Pre-season

As ever pre-season was about building up critical match fitness for the long, gruelling nine months of competitive football ahead. Our main destination for the summer was a tour of the United States to face a number of clubs from the MLS.

We recorded wins over Orlando City (3-0), San Jose Earthquakes (1-0) and Columbus Crew (3-0) but drawing 1-1 vs Atlanta United and losing 2-1 to Houston Dynamo. The likes of Curtis Jones, Rafa Camacho, Bobby Duncan and Ki-Jana Hoever all accumulated some minutes over the course of the US tour and allowed me to take a closer look at some of our future prospects in this save.

New midfield signings Fabinho and Naby Keita were also introduced into the fold from the very first minute with much emphasis on getting them ready and adjusted to the system in time for the start of the Premier League season.

Our final friendly fixture was played against a major European side in the form of Napoli at Anfield just a week before the season was due to start. We ran out comfortable 3-0 winners against the Italians.

Pre-season odds

The bookies have on average predicted that we will finish in second place this season with betting odds of 3-1 to win the league. The reigning champions Manchester City are predicted to retain their crown with odds of 5-2 making them firm favourites for the forthcoming season.

Mohamed Salah (4-1) is the favourite to win the golden boot after picking up the award last season, with Roberto Firmino (8-1) surprisingly marked as his nearest challenger. Sadio Mane also makes the list of favourites in sixth position with more extreme odds of 14-1.

The Egyptian King (7-2) is also favourite to wrap up the Player of the Year award once again, but he faces stern competition from the likes of Kevin De Bruyne (5-1), Eden Hazard (7-1), David Silva (8-1), Harry Kane (9-1) and Sergio Aguero (10-1).

Finally, Naby Keita has been tipped to take the Premier League by storm in his debut season having been touted as a potential candidate for the Young Player of the Year award.

2018/19 Premier League Matchday 1 – Liverpool vs West Ham

The moment has finally arrived. It is time for all of the pre-season chatter to stop and for the talking to now be done on the pitch over the course of the next thirty-eight games. We start the season at Anfield against West Ham.

The Hammers brought in David Moyes at the back end of last season to stave off any threat of relegation and have since confirmed Manuel Pellegrini as their new permanent boss. The Argentine manager has been well backed in the market spending £87million on a number of new additions.

£36million of that total was spent on breaking West Ham’s transfer record for tricky winger Felipe Anderson from Lazio, whilst £18million was also spent on Borussia Dortmund wide man Andriy Yarmolenko.

Having conceded 68 goals last season – the joint highest in the league – Pellegrini has signed promising defender Issa Diop from Toulouse, coupled with the purchase of the experienced duo of Fabian Balbuena and goalkeeper Lukasz Fabianski.

In terms of our selection I had no major injury concerns and so was free to select what I think our best eleven was at this stage. Summer signings Alisson Becker, Fabinho and Naby Keita were all selected to make their competitive debuts, whilst Xherdan Shaqiri was named amongst the substitutes.

Dejan Lovren and Joel Matip were still recovering from injuries and therefore were not available, leaving us with no central defensive options on the bench.

West Ham Team: Fabianski; Zabaleta, Balbuena, Ogbonna, Cresswell; Rice, Yarmolenko, Noble, Wilshere, Felipe Anderson; Arnautovic

Subs: Adrian, Diop, Masuaku, Obiang, Antonio, Snodgrass, Perez

RESULT: Liverpool 2-0 West Ham (’90 Mane, ‘90+1 Mane)

MOTM: Sadio Mane

A win to start the season off! We dominated the game from start to finish, but really struggled to finish the countless goalscoring opportunities we created. Lukasz Fabianski was in inspired form for the away side making ten saves and it looked like we were heading for a frustrating goalless draw.

However, a late brace from Sadio Mane was enough to hand us the win and get us up and running in the 2018/19 Premier League season.

2018/19 Premier League Matchday 2 – Crystal Palace vs Liverpool

Next up was our first away day of the season and it saw us travel to Selhurst Park to take on Crystal Palace for a Monday night fixture. Selhurst Park has been notoriously difficult ground to go to for Liverpool in the past.

After our successful start to the season and the week break in between fixtures I decided to maintain continuity and largely retain the same line up that defeated Southampton on MD1. The only change was Gini Wijnaldum coming into the side to replace the captain Jordan Henderson.

Crystal Palace Team: Guaita; Wan-Bissaka, Tomkins, Sakho, van Aanholt; Milivojevic, McArthur; Townsend, Meyer, Zaha; Ayew

Subs: Speroni, Kelly, Woods, Riedewald, Puncheon, Williams, Benteke

RESULT: Crystal Palace 1-4 Liverpool (’12 Milivojevic, ’15 Fabinho, ’18 Firmino, ’22 Wijnaldum, ’31 Firmino)

MOTM: Mohamed Salah

Back to back wins! We went behind early on but managed to respond instantly with Fabinho equalising from the penalty spot.

A brace from Roberto Firmino and a goal from Gini Wijnaldum gave us a 4-1 lead at half time and from there we controlled the game to the end. Mohamed Salah failed to score for the second game running, but the Egyptian did notch three assists.

2018/19 Premier League Matchday 3 – Liverpool vs Brighton

Back to Anfield we go now as we look to end the month with three wins out of three. Brighton are the visitors and they have just come off the back of a fantastic 3-1 home triumph over Manchester United.

The lineup remains the same from the victory over Crystal Palace due to the pivotal role in played in turning around the game at Selhurst Park.

Brighton Team: Ryan; Montoya, Duffy, Dunk, Bong; Bernardo, Jahanbakhsh, Groß, Propper, March; Murray

Subs: Button, Schelotto, Stephens, Balogun, Kayal, Bissouma, Locadia

RESULT: Liverpool 3-1 Brighton (’45 Salah, ‘46 Fabinho, ’62 Salah, ’68 Groß)

MOTM: Mohamed Salah

We end August with another home win. The team found it hard to break down a stubborn Brighton side in the first half, but on the brink of halftime Mohamed Salah made the breakthrough.

Fabinho doubled our lead just after halftime, before Salah wrapped up the win around the hour mark. Pascal Groß scored a consolation goal for the visitors to deny us a clean sheet. So far, so good.

Premier League table

After the opening month of the 2018/19 Premier League season we currently sit in second place just behind the defending champions Manchester City on goal difference.

UEFA Champions League Group Stage draw

After Jurgen Klopp guided the Reds to fourth place in the Premier League last season, we were seeded in the third pot for the Champions League draw.

Liverpool were eventually drawn out into Group G alongside heavy hitters Paris Saint Germain and Borussia Dortmund, with Swiss side Young Boys completing our group.

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