Liverpool must be wishing the September international break never happened.
The Reds flew out of the blocks this season with their fluent attacking force undercutting Arsenal and proving unlucky to overcome Watford. Since then, though, Liverpool have painfully stagnated with Jurgen Klopp feeling the pressure.
Sadio Mane's controversial red card opened the floodgates in a 5-0 drubbing at Manchester City before mediocre draws with Sevilla and Burnley. Leicester City then proceeded to dump Klopp's men out of the Carabao Cup just days later.
A dramatic 3-2 league victory over the Foxes looked to have drawn a line under the dire spell but a return to Champions League duties served to refute such hopes.
Liverpool embarked on a gruelling trip to Russia to face Spartak Moscow. The home side caused a shock early on with Fernando opening the scoring with a free-kick, only for Philippe Coutinho to level proceedings in the 31st minute.
That was how the scores remained, however, with the likes of Loris Karius and Daniel Sturridge being roasted on Twitter as Klopp lamented the lack of cohesion between his front four.
However, the severity of the poor performance can perhaps be mitigated by the unexpected influence of Antonio Conte. In fact, Liverpool fans could direct their blame in the direction of the Chelsea boss.
After all, Spartak's manager - Massimo Carrera - just happens to be Conte's old assistant manager from his Juventus days. And since diverging in 2014, the pair have remained close friends and maintained regular contact.
That considered, Carrera decided to bring up the approaching challenge of Liverpool in conversation with his old boss. The Spartak coach conceded the brevity of the topic but more than emphasised its importance.
Carrera explained: "During the conversation we talked about Liverpool for just a couple of minutes," per the Mirror.
"We more discussed the situation in our teams, personal affairs, vacation, but what he said about the British, I needed.
"We played a great game against a very good team. I don't have any complaints about my team's performance."
Whatever Conte's advice turned out to be, it clearly paid off for Spartak on Tuesday. The Chelsea boss will just have to hope he can follow his own wisdom come November when the Blues make the difficult trip to Anfield.
Klopp will have to steady the ship soon, though, or said fixture won't be the title-challenger clash he hopes it will be.
Do you think Liverpool are title contenders this season? Have your say in the comments below.
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