By James McManus
Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers has shown a willingness to throw the club's burgeoning crop of youngsters in at the deep end this season, utilising their talents to their full effect in the Europa League.
With that in mind, ahead of the upcoming release of their latest edition of Football Manager, the tech whizz kids have run a simulation of tonight's big game using their new feature called 'challenge mode', with the 'you can't win anything with kids' setting involving both Liverpool and Udinese and the results are extremely intriguing.
The game itself was run using just two criteria; they implemented both team's real life style of play into their tactic selection and they fielded realistic squads for both sides, given the context of their earlier efforts in the competition so far this season.
Ahead of this evening's game at Anfield, which is sure to provide the Merseyside outfit with their toughest test this term in Europe to date, the simulated result ended in a thrilling 2-2 draw, with Sebastian Coates and Jordan Henderson among the goals for the hosts, racing into a two-goal lead inside the opening 25 minutes.
However, a tactical change and a stronger emphasis on attacking play saw Udinese peg them back with two goals of their own, firstly through a Mehdi Benatia pearler from 25 yards which Brad Jones should have done better to get to and then a Diego Fabbrini equaliser in the 80th minute after a mazy run and well-placed shot.
The action didn't end there, though, with precocious 17-year-old winger Raheem Sterling seeing a goal chalked off just moments later after he strayed into an offside position and the game eventually ended as a tie.
It bears a startling resemblance to reality so far and the new Liverpool boss looks set to continue the policy that served the team so well against Swiss side Young Boys in their last match this time around as he looks to juggle his small squad with competing on four fronts.
Goal! | Coates put Liverpool ahead in our Football Manager 2013 simulation
Andre Wisdom, who featured in the simulation as well, will likely take his place at right-back this evening after a polished display in the 5-2 league win over Norwich at Carrow Road at the weekend as he looks to make the most of Jose Enrique's poor form and Martin Kelly's time on the sidelines.
The main talking point of Liverpool's start to the season so far, though, has been the emergence of Sterling, who was rewarded for his blistering start to the campaign with a senior England call-up last month for the World Cup qualifier against Ukraine.
It is not only his pace and trickery which has caught the eye with the youngster so far this term, but his ability to pick a pass and his positional and tactical awareness. He has featured in nine games so far this term, pushing £20m man Stewart Downing further down the pecking order in the process.
While the league start by the club has not been the strongest, their performances have been superb for such a collectively youthful group, with Spanish teenager Suso reportedly on Real Madrid's radar already and Jack Robinson and Daniel Pacheco also getting their chance to shine.
In the team's 5-3 win away from home against Young Boys, Rodgers also introduced Jonjo Shelvey to devastating effect in the second half and the 20-year-old's increasingly mature displays in the heart of midfield have seen him marked as a future England international and Steven Gerrard's long-term successor.
Whatever the outcome of tonight's game, the simulation gives a keen insight into how things could pan out for the club this season against top-class opposition and while mistakes will inevitably be made, it certainly bodes well in what is quickly starting to represent a bright future for the club.
Honours even | Our simulation ended in a thrilling 2-2 draw as the visitors recovered
Football Manager 2013 is released on PC & Mac on November 2.