Talking Points: Liverpool 7 (Seven), Spartak Moskow 0

Liverpool produced another famous Anfield night to thrash Spartak Moskva and secure qualification to the knockout stages of the Champions League – progressing as group winners. Philippe Coutinho’s first Liverpool hat-trick, as well as a double for Sadio Mane and one each for Roberto Firmino and Mo Salah, completed the rout.

Nerves dispatched within minutes as Reds get the job done in style…

Missing – The Liverpool team that normally gives people very high blood pressure and has fans a nervous wreck. Last seen – once in the last couple of months. Reward – well nothing as hopefully this Liverpool will stay missing for a while longer. Things could have gotten nervy if Liverpool started the game poorly or conceded an early goal, but those narratives went out the window after just 18 minutes as the home side raced into a three-goal lead thanks to Coutinho and Firmino. Thoughts back to the same half-time lead in the Sevilla game made for disturbing remembrance, but this was to be no repeat performance as just five minutes into the second half Mane scored the fourth and Coutinho the fifth. Mane and Salah added two more goals before the games close and thus Liverpool claimed one of their easiest wins for a long time. Seven goals. Clean sheet. Progression into the knockout stages. Job done.

Philippe. Coutinho. Superstar. Again…

With Jordan Henderson, James Milner and Simon Mignolet all on the bench, the duty of captaincy fell to Coutinho, and he certainly led by example as his team set about dismantling Spartak. The Brazilian’s performance against Brighton last Saturday was breathtaking, and this performance was probably just as good. Goalscoring is something that Coutinho has improved upon season by season at Anfield, and after scoring 14 goals in all competitions last season, he now already has 9 this season and we’ve only started December. He was at the heart of so many Liverpool attacks against Spartak, and also took the responsibility to put an end to the Reds’ recent penalty curse. When at his best it isn’t like Coutinho is playing a football match, more so a game of futsal or a training ground exercise where he can perform pure artistry on a football pitch. Liverpool need to ensure that if Coutinho does leave, it is at the end of the season and after he has further helped the Club’s Champions League campaign.

Fab four will have the rest of Europe running scared…

What teams should arguably be most afraid of is the hunger Liverpool’s fab four have to score goals, and for as many of them to be on the scoresheet as possible. Coutinho had his hat-trick, Mane his double and Firmino his goal, but still they would not rest until Salah put an end to his painstakingly long one game goal drought – which he did. While some teams look to one or maybe two individuals to provide their attacking threat, Klopp has four players at his disposal who are all capable of winning a match on their own. As a quartet they bring a ridiculous amount of advantages and threats to the table; pace, trickery, movement, intelligence, craft, finishing – the list goes on. The issue of course for Klopp apart from keeping them fit is making sure they aren’t having to score too many goals to back up a leaky defence at the other end. Against top European sides a midfield two of Henderson and Gini Wijnaldum will very likely not offer enough defensive protection – hence the importance of Emre Can, or if he leaves, the signing of a quality defensive midfielder. Of course, the addition of a certain Dutch centre-back in January would also help matters.

Europe can be put aside for a while, allowing full focus on Premier League wins… 

So Liverpool are through to the knockout stages and will find out in the draw on Monday who they will be facing in the last 16. They will face one of Real Madrid, Juventus, Bayern Munich, Shakhtar Donetsk, Porto and Basel, with the second leg of the tie being at Anfield – a nice advantage to have. Some supporters may prefer Liverpool to draw one of Real, Juve or Bayern as glamour ties are what the Champions League is all about, while others would rather face one of the other three teams as it could offer an easier chance of progression. Whoever Klopp’s side will play, it won’t be for a few months as the competition takes a break before returning in February. This allows Liverpool to continue to kick on in the League – starting with a win against Everton on Sunday – and put a formidable run of wins together. By the time the Champions League does start again, the Reds need to be at least fourth in the table and in a strong position in the race for a top-four finish.

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