Welcome back to the Aswijan Assignment, a Football Manager 2020 save in the fictional country of Aswijan – using a database created by @Chilled_Moose.
Khaliza Unidi were in touching distance of defending their maiden Aswijan Liga Regale title, six points clear at the top with two games in hand on Aswijan Malikiy. We were going to be seeing plenty of the evil perennial Asiwjan champions, as we kick off this article with a visit to their place then we a Champions League quarter-final against them.
But first, a league trip to Ard di Malikiy. The hosts bossed most of the game with 58% of possession and outshooting us by 16 to 11. However, our goalkeeper Julian Frontzeck had an absolute blinder, making 7 saves of which at least 4 were point blank saves with them clean through on goal. And we made our chances count as Calvin Stengs – who’d gone at least three months without scoring – made it 2 goals in 2 games with a huge 72nd minute.
This huge win moved us 9 points clear at the top with 2 games on hand in Malikiy, who only have 5 games remaining.
Malikiy European face-off
That big win was immediately followed by the first leg of a Champions League quarter-final with Malikiy, with the home leg up first. This time we absolutely dominated the game and took a deserved lead with another special solo goal by our 100% scout recommended Francisco José. However, we were a little wasteful with chances and failed to add to that lead but importantly also didn’t concede.
And we took that 1-0 lead to Malikiy one week later, where the Khaliza boys put in a phenomenal performance. Right-back Goncalo Serra scored a fierce shot on 15 minutes then Ilaix Moriba scored a trademark long range screamer on 39 minutes. They got back into it in the second half before two late goals from excellent 18-year-old centre-back Hugo Vandevelde and Francisco José flattered us.
Chasing the title defence
A home clash with ACAT sandwiched the two Malikiy matches and our players were knackered, so I did a heavy rotation for the league game. But the two regular starters we did retain had us 2-0 up at half-time with an Ulrich Awono penalty and a header by Dan-Axel Zagadou. Young winger Pindaro Gisbert added a third before ACAT pulled one back. And this win put us one point away from the title.
Bizarrely, we then faced three league games in five days ahead of our first ever Champions League semi-final. With the league basically in the bag, I decided to rotate fully.
Luckily we were at bottom of the league Wabani Athletik in the first of the three games. One of our January signings left winger Matteo Zanini stepped up and scored a brace on his debut then young right winger Adalardo Ariztia scored off the bench to secure a 3-1 win.
And that win earned Khaliza Unidi a second successive Liga Regale title!
That win also saw us set a new Liga Regale record of 29 games unbeaten. But could we keep that going and complete an invincible season?
We went a step closer to it by FM’ing the hell out of Hadria by beating them 1-0 away with our reserve team despite having 3 shots to their 23. I then further rotated the backup 11 for a home game against Uswana, and we went ahead early with centre-back Nicolas Verdier’s first goal for the club. Then two homegrown talents Ariztia and Priamo Bourdon gave us a silly 3-0 win. So we’re battering teams with a near third 11!!
Champions League semi-final
Our first ever Champions League semi-final saw us go up against Italian giants Juventus, who’ve won the last 13 Serie A titles. The Italians started well as Paulo Dybala put them in front of 7 minutes. But we came flying back with a brilliant finish by Francisco José 4 minutes later.
The game was tight and pretty even but we made a vital change that saw Gustavo Collado come on for Awono and swapping him with Francisco José. And the young Argentinian striker popped up to bag an 89th minute winner. Importantly, we had two big away goals to take back to Ard di Magia the following week.
But the second leg was anything but tight and even. We came flying out of the blocks and had 18 shots inside the first 20 minutes! Vandevelde nodded home a header from a Stengs corner on 22 minutes then left winger Thaaqib Solar had us comfortable just after the break and doubled his tally late on. In total, we had 35 shots of which 15 were on target, which saw Wojciech Szczesny play a 7.8.
That secured a dominant 5-1 aggregate win and our first ever Champions League final!
Aiming to go unbeaten
Bizarrely, we had two consecutive league games against 2nd placed Marrador FC – which also happened last season with Malikiy – either side of the Juve second leg. While the final game of the season was 2 days after the second Marrador game and we played 4 games in 8 days, so I’m glad we had the title wrapped up!
Our reserves’ luck ran out in the first of those games, losing our first game of the season 2-0 at Marrador. The second game against them saw centre back Adam Hemmingsen break the Khaliza Unidi league appearances record with 138, and he celebrated it by scoring our equaliser in a 1-1 draw.
We finished Liga Regale with a trip to Hadria Oskat, who were on 24 points and 1 clear of relegation heading into the final day. 18-year-old left winger academy product D’Ambrósio Balkan gave us a great start with his first league goal on 20 minutes and we eased to a 1-0 win. Luckily for Oskat, Chaouka also lost so they survived relegation.
That ensured we finished top of the league, 14 points clear of Marrador and broke club records for most wins, least losses and most points. Malikiy fell apart at the end of the season and finished outside European places down in 6th place. Unsurprisingly, they sacked manager Rutenio Blanco after 12 years in charge.
Champions League Final
Our maiden European final and Champions League Final saw us again face Italian opposition up against Inter Milan. The big game was being played in a grand stadium, with Aswijan and Italy going head to head in Barcelona’s Nou Camp.
Bizarrely, we had a club takeover completed in the 2 weeks between the end of the league and the European final. The new board didn’t add any money or change anything, so it was a total waste of time. However, I went to them with a load of demands and got new training facilities, more junior coaching and a stadium expansion approved. Annoyingly, they still won’t let me ask for improved youth recruitment, which is still only average.
We were just about favourites for the big game at 6/4 compared to Inter at 13/8, in what was the first ever meeting between the two sides. But Inter’s team hasn’t really changed in the six years of this save, with the likes of Mauro Icardi, Romelu Lukaku, Christian Eriksen, Milan Skriniar and Nicolo Barella.
And that added know-how and experience was too much for us. Lukaku scored early on and Inter well and truly dominated us with 23 shots to 12, eventually making that count with a second from Skriniar.
It had been a great journey but we just fell short at the final hurdle and Inter were deserving European champions.
Despite that final loss, I’m really enjoying managing the Khaliza side and I think it’s right up there with the best teams I’ve managed on FM, alongside my Atalanta side of FM 2019. We have a great young team that’s really exciting to manage and I’m intrigued to see how good they can become.
Join us next time as we look back on the key performers in a remarkable sixth season in Aswijan, in which I think I’ll do a little introduction to our key players to help you understand just how good they are.
I hope you’re enjoying reading about our adventures in the fictional nation of Aswijan. If you have any questions or want more info on specific players in the squad, just let me know in the comments or get in touch on Twitter.