‘The LFC Project’ Part IV – Big fixtures on the cards as domestic cups begin

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By Taylor Powling – @TaylorPSport

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

Today we embark on a difficult set of fixtures as we look to maintain our unbeaten start in both the Premier League and Champions League.

We also start our adventure in the Carabao Cup as we enter the third round stage.

2018/19 Carabao Cup Third Round – Liverpool vs Burnley

First up our Carabao Cup campaign begins. We have been drawn to face fellow Premier League side Burnley in the third round. Having not rotated the side much at all in the last month I decided to take this opportunity to make wholesale changes to the team.

The likes of Simon Mignolet, Nathaniel Clyne, Dejan Lovren, Alberto Moreno, Adam Lallana, Daniel Sturridge and Divock Origi were all drafted in to make their first starts of the season. Joe Gomez partners Lovren in central defence as Joel Matip is not yet fit to make his comeback from injury.

Burnley Team: Heaton; Lowton, Tarkowski, Gibson, Mee; Cork, Westwood; Gudmundsson, Brady Vydra; Vokes

Subs: Hart, Ward, Taylor, Hendrick, Lennon, Barnes, Wood

RESULT: Liverpool 0-1 Burnley (‘90+1 Wood)

MOTM: Ben Gibson

Our first defeat of the season and we have been dumped out of the Carabao Cup. We dominated the game but did not have the clinical edge required to score. In a desperate search for the winner we got caught on the counter attack late on and Chris Wood sent Burnley through to the fourth round with their only clear cut chance of the match.

A bitter pill to swallow but no time to dwell on the result as we now face Chelsea in the Premier League.

2018/19 Premier League Matchday 7 – Chelsea vs Liverpool

It’s all change in the Stamford Bridge dugout once again as Maurizio Sarri has replaced fellow countryman Antonio Conte over the summer.

Jorginho has followed Sarri from Naples to London in a £50million move, whilst the Blues shelled out a whopping £70million world record fee for a goalkeeper on Spanish international Kepa Arrizabalaga – in place of Thibaut Courtois who moved to Real Madrid.

The Italian is renowned for his quick, intricate style of play and this is a matchup which is bound to see a number of chances created and goals scored.

We return to our strongest current eleven having rested a number of players in midweek. Naby Keita and Jordan Henderson are both being deployed as box-to-box midfielders as part of the game plan to heavily press Jorginho and stop the 26-year-old orchestrating play. Fabinho will act as the anchor looking to stop Eden Hazard when the Belgian moves inside from that left wing.

Chelsea Team: Arrizabalaga; Azpilicueta, Cahill, Luiz, Emerson; Jorginho, Kovacic, Kante; Willian, Morata, Hazard

Subs: Green, Christensen, Alonso, Moses, Fabregas, Barkley, Pedro

RESULT: Chelsea 2-4 Liverpool (’15 Hazard, ’42 Shaqiri, ’61 Morata, ’69 Mane, 90+2 Mane, 90+5 Sturridge)

MOTM: Sadio Mane

Another thriller in London. Having beaten Tottenham 5-2 we now beat Chelsea 4-2. We fell behind twice in this game which was not ideal, and we did fail to stop Jorginho dictating the play for the large majority of the game as he set up Eden Hazard for the opener.

However, I was delighted with the grit and determination we showed to twice get back into the match and to then go on and nick the three points with two stoppage time goals. Sadio Mane was unplayable on the left hand side scoring two goals and assisting Xherdan Shaqiri for our initial equaliser.

Awards

Four wins in September has seen me be awarded with the Premier League Manager of the Month award, edging out Pep Guardiola and Unai Emery. James Milner had been nominated for Player of the Month, but the award ultimately went to West Ham’s Marko Arnautovic.

2018/19 UEFA Champions League Group G Matchday 2 – Liverpool vs Paris Saint Germain

A massive fixture in the context of our qualification hopes to the knockout stages of the Champions League as we take on one of the favourites to win the competition: Paris Saint Germain.

A win against Borussia Dortmund away from home has already left us in a strong position and now we look to cement our position with a win against the reigning French champions.

A round of sixteen exit at the hands of eventual winners Real Madrid saw Unai Emery ousted with the former Mainz and Dortmund manager Thomas Tuchel taking over.

Since being taken over by Qatar Sports Investments in 2011 PSG have dominated French football and are now eager to take that next step and capture that elusive first Champions League title.

Possessing arguably the best attacking trio in world football with the combination of the French wonderkid Kylian Mbappe, Neymar and the lethal Edinson Cavani, PSG are undoubtedly one of the best teams on the planet.

However, despite their attacking talent, the Parisians lack numbers in midfield and can be exposed defensively which is why I have set up my team with the intent to take the game to PSG. In midfield I have gone for Gini Wijnaldum over Naby Keita due to the Dutchman’s ability to retain possession and avoid the ball being turned over.

Furthermore, we have been boosted significantly by the return of Roberto Firmino. With Mohamed Salah disappointing against Chelsea I have decided to shift him back to his natural right wing position and start Firmino from the off.

The Brazilian’s ability to play as a false nine could be crucial in this game as PSG typically play the more attack minded Marco Verratti as the holding midfielder and therefore Firmino could find joy in between the lines.

Paris Saint Germain Team: Areola; Alves, Marquinhos, Silva, Bernat; Verratti, Meunier, Rabiot; Mbappe, Neymar, Cavani

Subs: Chesneau, Kimpembe, Kehrer, Kurzawa, Nkunku, Jese, Chupo-Moting

RESULT: Liverpool 3-0 Paris Saint Germain (’62 Alexander-Arnold, ’78 Salah, ’87 Mane)

MOTM: Trent Alexander-Arnold

Three goals, three points. An uneven contest in many respects as PSG were reduced to ten men after only three minutes when Thiago Silva was sent off for a strong challenge on Mohamed Salah.

From that point it was one way traffic and the away side did well to hold on until the hour mark when Trent Alexander-Arnold scored a delightful free-kick from just outside the box. Naby Keita would prove to have a strong influence on the game off the bench.

The Guinean assisted fellow African’s Salah and Mane to turn the score line into a commanding one. With two fixtures against the minnows of the group, Young Boys, up next we are in the driving seat in Group G.

2018/19 Premier League Matchday 8 – Liverpool vs Manchester City

A gigantic fixture on the horizon now as the top two in the Premier League go head to head in the battle between the Champions and the Challengers. Both sides have won their opening seven games and so a win for either side would provide a massive edge in what could be a titanic title battle.

We suffered a big blow post PSG as it was confirmed Andy Robertson would be out for around ten days with a pulled back muscle and would subsequently be absent for the visit of the Centurions.

With Manchester City possessing a large amount of pace in their team, I elected to go with Alberto Moreno at left back instead of the more experienced and defensively stable James Milner.

The fresh legs of Naby Keita and Jordan Henderson would come back into the starting eleven to try and perfect a high-pressing game plan against Pep Guardiola’s possession orientated side.

Manchester City Team: Ederson; Walker, Otamendi, Kompany, Mendy; Fernandinho, De Bruyne, Silva; Mahrez, Sane, Aguero

Subs: Muric, Danilo, Laporte, Delph, Gundogan, Sterling, Jesus

RESULT: Liverpool 2-0 Manchester City (’32 Mane, ’52 Mane)

MOTM: Sadio Mane

Sadio Mane continues his brilliant form by scoring a brace in this top of the table clash to give us a crucial three points. Last season it took Manchester City until January to lose their first game in the Premier League so to inflict an early defeat on them could turn out how to be a pivotal moment in this title race.

Surprisingly, it was a pretty routine win. We managed to expertly shut down the midfield trio of Fernandinho, David Silva, Kevin De Bruyne and did not allow them any time on the ball at all, with City only completing six key passes throughout the game compared to our thirteen.

Once again we utilised the full-backs as a way of breaking down the opposition. Mahrez and Sane’s average position was very narrow and it allowed us to push Trent Alexander-Arnold and Alberto Moreno further forward to provide width and pin back their full-backs from overlapping.

To counter City’s wingers coming narrow to support Aguero down the middle I deployed Fabinho as an anchor in midfield looking to make a bank of three in defence whenever the full-backs were further up the field.

Alexander-Arnold would eventually get the assist for Mane’s second goal, receiving the ball on the overlap and getting past Benjamin Mendy to tee up the Senegalese winger at the back post demonstrating my game plan coming to fruition.

Premier League table

After inflicting a first defeat of the season on Pep Guardiola’s men, we now sit three points clear at the top of the table. Chelsea and Everton trail the Manchester side by a further two points, whilst there’s a gap emerging between the top four and those outside.

Manchester United now find themselves in the bottom half of the table having lost four of their opening eight games.

Leicester City and newly promoted Wolves surprisingly sit in the relegation places despite spending considerable amounts in the summer. Cardiff City have lost every single game and are rock bottom.

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