‘The LFC Project’ Part III – The road to Madrid begins as Reds kick-off Champions League campaign

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By Taylor Powling – @TaylorPSport

Welcome back to part three of our Football Manager 2019 save with Liverpool here at The Kopite.

Today we will be moving into the month of September and starting off our Champions League campaign with a tough test away at Borussia Dortmund.

2018/19 Premier League Matchday 4 – Leicester City vs Liverpool

We returned from the international break with a tough trip to the King Power Stadium to take on Leicester City. The Foxes finished in ninth place last season, but murmurs of discontent have already arisen just one month into the new season over the future of manager Claude Puel.

Despite spending £20m on the young English attacking midfielder James Maddison from Norwich City, Leicester have only amassed one point and scored only one goal in their opening three fixtures.

I decided to maintain largely the same starting eleven as the previous three games. The defence and attack stayed completely the same with the only change being James Milner making his first start of the season in midfield. Daniel Sturridge was the only absentee from the squad due to a neck strain suffered in training.

Leicester City Team: Schmeichel; Pereira, Maguire, Evans, Chilwell; Iborra, Ghezzal, Ndidi, Silva, Gray; Vardy

Subs: Ward, Simpson, Amartey, Mendy, Maddison, Okazaki, Iheanacho

RESULT: Leicester City 1-3 Liverpool (’21 Firmino, ’39 Firmino, ’81 Shaqiri, 90 Maddison)

MOTM: Roberto Firmino

Four wins on the bounce! A first half brace from Roberto Firmino and a first goal at the club for Xherdan Shaqiri sees us take the three points back to Anfield.

Disappointing to concede in the final moments and be denied a clean sheet as well as seeing Roberto Firmino hobble off in the second half. The majority of the squad then headed off on international duty for a fortnight.

2018/19 Premier League Matchday 5 – Tottenham vs Liverpool

The next team we would face is our biggest test of the season so far away at Tottenham Hotspur. Despite making no signings in the summer, Spurs still possess one of the best squads in the entirety of the Premier League and it was a game where we could potentially find ourselves under pressure for large patches.

With that in mind and the absence of Firmino for four weeks due to a calf strain, I decided to move Mohamed Salah to the striker position to utilise his blistering pace effectively on the counter attack. Filling in on the right hand side would be Xherdan Shaqiri making his first start after bagging his first goal for the club off the bench in the previous game.

With Mauricio Pochettino’s side having a number of creative outlets such as Christian Eriksen and Dele Alli dropping deep to feed Harry Kane the midfield battle was an area where I looked to gain superiority.

Therefore, I made the decision to drop the expressive Naby Keita from the starting eleven in place of the hardworking English duo of Jordan Henderson and James Milner in order to press their midfield and stop the supply lines through to Kane.

Tottenham Team: Gazzaniga; Trippier, Alderweireld, Vertonghen, Davies; Dier, Sanchez; Alli, Eriksen, Son; Kane

Subs: Glover, Aurier, Rose, Wanyama, Winks, Nkoudou, Lamela

RESULT: Tottenham 2-5 Liverpool (’11, 24 Salah, ’63 Milner, ’69 Clyne OG, ’77 Alderweireld OG, ’78 Milner, ’81 Dier)

MOTM: James Milner

What a win at Wembley! Our first big test of the season and we responded emphatically.

Salah repays my faith in starting him up top with two goals to get us underway. The midfield trio of Fabinho, Henderson and Milner completely dominated Spurs and exposed Pochettino’s decision to strangely start Davinson Sanchez and Eric Dier as a double defensive pivot.

It was an even game, but we were much more clinical and were never in any threat of letting the three points slip through our fingers. Onto the Champions League in midweek we go.

2018/19 Champions League Group G Matchday 1 – Borussia Dortmund vs Liverpool

After Jurgen Klopp reached the final last year I am determined to take this squad one step further in 2018/19. We have been handed a difficult group and we start it with an away trip to the infamous Signul Iduna Park to play Borussia Dortmund.

The German giants hired Lucian Favre in the summer and added the likes of Paco Alcacer, Thomas Delaney and Abdou Diallo to their ranks, as they aim to topple the dominant force of the Bundesliga – Bayern Munich.

Although we faced Tottenham in a high-intensity fixture just four days ago I have decided to take a risk and only make one change from that victory. Gini Wijnaldum replaces James Milner to provide some fresh legs.

Mohamed Salah maintains his place at the forefront of the team after his scintillating display at Wembley.

Borussia Dortmund Team: Burki; Hakimi, Toprak, Akanji, Guerreiro; Weigl, Witsel, Delaney; Pulisic, Sancho, Alcacer

Subs: Hitz, Diallo, Schmelzer, Rode, Wolf, Kagawa, Gotze

RESULT: Borussia Dortmund 0-2 Liverpool (’1 Salah, ’17 Henderson)

MOTM: Trent Alexander-Arnold

We start our Champions League campaign with three vital points. It took us just 50 seconds to take the lead in Germany.

Xherdan Shaqiri’s cross field ball found Sadio Mane who picked out Mohamed Salah in the middle for a tap in. Dortmund continuously tried to press us high up the pitch and that allowed us to get in behind on a number of occasions.

Alisson’s elite ball playing abilities from the back allowed us to evade their high press. In this example he picked out Shaqiri in space. He came inside and found Salah creating space for Trent Alexander-Arnold on the overlap to find the onrushing Jordan Henderson who headed it past the helpless Roman Burki.

This second goal was particularly impressive as it showed how our game plan to counter quickly and evade Lucien Favre’s high press worked to absolute perfection.

2018/19 Premier League Matchday 6 – Southampton vs Liverpool

Back to the Premier League now as Southampton visit Anfield for Matchday 6 of the 2018/19 season. Having narrowly kept the Saints up, Mark Hughes has stayed on at the helm and has been well backed in the summer window.

£48.5m was spent primarily on defensive reinforcements in the form of Jannik Vestegaard from Borussia Monchengladbach (£22.5m) and goalkeeper Angus Gunn from Manchester City (£10m).

The South Coast club have also added players at the opposite end of the pitch. Creative midfielder Stuart Armstrong has arrived from Celtic, whilst their standout signing is quick winger Mohamed Elyounoussi (£16million) from FC Basel. Hughes side have started well in this campaign winning three of their opening five games and find themselves sitting comfortably in the top half of the table.

Once again I made very few alterations to my starting eleven with the only changes being fresh legs in midfield. Jordan Henderson and Gini Wijnaldum drop to the bench in place of James Milner and Naby Keita. Xherdan Shaqiri continued to deputise for the injured Roberto Firmino.

Southampton Team: McCarthy; Cedric, Stephens, Vestegaard, Bertrand; Romeu, Elyounoussi, Lemina, Hojbjerg, Redmond; Gabbiadini

Subs: Gunn, Hoedt, Targett, Davis, Ward-Prowse, Armstrong, Long

RESULT: Liverpool 3-0 Southampton (’15 Milner, ’27 Milner, ’77 Mane)

MOTM: James Milner

Another routine victory for the Reds in the Premier League. Two first-half goals from James Milner put us in a commanding position and then Sadio Mane completed the rout just a quarter of an hour from the end.

We finally manage to keep another clean sheet in the league after a number of games without one. We restricted Southampton to only one shot on target the entire game, which was particularly impressive considering they edged the possession statistics.

Premier League table

We alongside Manchester City retain our 100% record after the opening six games, but we take over the top spot on goals scored.

Watford impressively sit third, maintaining the joint best defensive record in the league, whilst Arsenal, Everton and Chelsea will look to make up ground on the top two over the coming game weeks.

Manchester United sit just outside the top six after their indifferent start to the season. Meanwhile, Tottenham Hotspur have suffered a horrific start to the season. Mauricio Pochettino’s side find themselves languishing down in twelfth place, with only two wins from their six encounters.

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