By Max Chaytor
Liverpool scraped past Sheffield United on Saturday, which ended a perfect domestic September for the Reds, with wins over Newcastle, Chelsea and Sheffield United in the league and a win over MK Dons in the Carabao Cup, September’s only downside was the loss against Napoli in the Champions League. But, with 16 consecutive league wins under their belt, LFC will need to push hard in October to maintain their lead in the PL and to kick-start their UCL defence.
LFC’s October begins on Wednesday 2nd where the Reds play at Anfield for the first time in just under 3 weeks. The visitors are Red Bull Salzburg, who made headlines in MD1 of the UCL with a 6-2 demolition of Genk. Notably, the stories were all about young Norwegian Erling Braut Haaland, who scored a hat-trick in the first half and is now one of the hottest prospects in Europe. While Klopp’s main task will be to keep the free-scoring Norwegian quiet in order to get LFC’s UCL campaign rolling with a home win, the first UCL game at Anfield since that night against Barca. It is an ideal way to start this month, as you feel that a win would really boost the already sky-high confidence of the Redmen.
The next game is another at home and we welcome former manager Brendan Rodgers and his in-form Leicester side on the 5th. We saw last year that the Foxes came to Anfield with a plan – and it worked, with Liverpool stuttering to a 1-1 draw that perhaps, ultimately cost them the title. This is without a doubt no pushover for the Reds and could end their winning run in the league and could throw the confidence ahead of a huge game the week after, but more on that later. Hopefully, by then, the Reds will have the fully fit pair of Alisson and Naby Keita at their disposal. No disrespect to Super Cup hero Adrian, but you feel our Brazilian shot-stopper will come in as soon as he is deemed fit enough. As for our Guinean No. 8, it will be a lot harder to dislodge the midfield 3 of Hendo, Fabinho and Gini, and he will have to impress in substitute cameos in order to break into our midfield. Leicester have the obvious threats in Vardy and Maddison, the latter of which will no doubt catch the eye of Fabinho, with VVD trying to tame Vardy. It’s another key game where Liverpool can’t afford to slip up; like last season, it could have drastic implications.
As mentioned previously, LFC cannot afford to drop points against Leicester as it could knock the confidence levels ahead of a huge game. That’s because on Sunday 20th, Liverpool travel to Manchester to play United at OT. Regardless of whatever team’s form, it’s a huge game that all fans look for in the calendar. Last season’s 0-0 draw was another draw that, had LFC nicked a goal, would’ve won them the title. Fine margins, eh? Despite Man Utd’s awful start, Ole will set up a very defensive side and look to hit LFC on the counter. Every game against Utd is a tough slog but with the first of the season over at OT, it will be even harder and a massive test of LFC’s mettle.
A busy October means there are still 3 fixtures left for Liverpool to navigate – the first of the 3 being a trip to Belgium to face Genk in the final game of Part 1 in the UCL Group Stages on the 23rd. After being drubbed by Salzburg, it is easy to see why Genk are no seen as the whipping boys of the group. But Klopp will want to see a reaction from his men after the last UCL away game, which was a loss in Naples. Nevertheless, it will be an opportunity to rest some key players, with the likes of Keita, Origi, Lallana, Shaqiri, Milner and Gomez all likely to feature against the Belgians. As with every game in the group stages, it is key that LFC do not drop points in the race for the knockouts, but above that, the race to top the group. LFC’s UCL defence has not started brilliantly, and they will need to respond in October by seeing off Salzburg and Gent.
The main reason Klopp is likely to rotate against Genk is due to another big Premier League clash 4 days after. The Reds welcome Spurs to Anfield on the 27th, and it is another crunch game where points cannot be dropped, and pressure for Man City to win cannot be taken off. These are the types of games that will be remembered later in the season as a missed opportunity if LFC do not win. The game at Liverpool was entertaining last season – Salah bundled in a last minute winner deep into the season – and you felt that the game was crucial towards Liverpool’s title charge – ultimately it came to nothing, but regardless, Liverpool will need to win the game before Klopp’s men travel to Spurs’ new stadium for the reverse fixture in the New Year. With Pochettino under pressure to secure UCL football for 20/21, it is also a must win for Spurs and should be yet another thriller between the two.
The final game in LFC’s jam-packed October is another visit from a North London club. This time, LFC welcome Arsenal in the Last 16 of the Carabao Cup on the 29th. With both sides likely to rotate it will be an open game, however Klopp is not likely to play all the young stars that featured in the win over MK Dons. Despite only being in the Last 16, a cup game against Arsenal is always one to catch the eye and it would certainly do no harm for LFC to go all the way and win the competition, providing no slip-ups. It is an easy trophy to add to our recent European success, and another trophy to take off the hands of Man City, which always helps.
Overall, it is a very challenging month for Jurgen’s men, with big games in 3 competitions. However, only the games against Man Utd and Genk are away from Anfield, which will fill Klopp with confidence going into a huge month in LFC’s bid to retain the UCL, and win their first Premier League title.