Who wants to face Coutinho, Mane, Salah & co in the Champions League last 16?

Sadio Mane Coutinho Firmino

In the end, it wasn’t a question of whether Liverpool could finally crack the code for the Champions League knockout phase or if they truly do belong amongst Europe’s elite.

They had answered so emphatically - Spartak Moscow dissected so swiftly - that the real query is who would actually want to try and combat the cannonry at Jurgen Klopp’s disposal in the next round?

Basel, Bayern Munich, Juventus, Shakhtar Donetsk, Porto and Real Madrid are the potential opponents and none of them will want Monday's draw to result in them having to devise a plan of containment for Liverpool's 'Fab Four'.

They delivered seven goals against the Russian champions at Anfield on Wednesday night to record 23 in the group stages of the competition - the most any English side has managed at this juncture in the tournament.

Liverpool celebrate v Spartak

Only Paris Saint-Germain, powered by their staggering world-record purchase of Neymar, have marginally bettered Liverpool’s attack in the continental showpiece this season - and the Merseysiders have only just settled into their stride.

Massimo Carrera stood on the touchline - part-startled, part-in-awe - as Philippe Coutinho painted yet another masterpiece, with mesmeric strokes contributed by Roberto Firmino, Sadio Mane and Mohamed Salah.

Their gifts, so varied and in sync, meant the almightily impressive scoreline was still flattering for the visitors. It could have been more and it would have been deserved.

Spartak had barely settled into the “all or nothing” fixture before they found themselves trailing to two Coutinho efforts. The Brazil international, appointed captain for the encounter with Jordan Henderson on the bench, assumed responsibility for a penalty four minutes in. He converted from the spot and followed that up by finishing a breathtaking team move involving Dejan Lovren and all of the front three.

Liverpool celebrate

Spartak had already been dazed by the speed, movement and incision of Liverpool’s play before Firmino further shook them. Mane's ball across the box hit Serdar Tasci's arm and the Brazilian reacted sharpest to make it 3-0.

The Senegal international then continued the masterclass in the second half, connecting with James Milner’s cross via a wondrous volley that goalkeeper Alexander Selikhov was never going to thwart.

Coutinho helped himself to a hat-trick courtesy of a deflection, before Mane collected an unselfish ball from Daniel Sturridge that was a little behind him and scooped it in for his second of the evening and Liverpool’s sixth.

Liverpool celebrate v Spartak

The party in front of the posts didn’t end there, with Salah finally and justifiably getting his 18th goal of the campaign and the 12th in his last 11 appearances.

The humiliation of Spartak included a treble of assists for Milner, who had only been subbed on due to Alberto Moreno’s injury. Carrera was correct in his post-match assertion that his men were "outclassed in every department."

Liverpool couldn’t have sent out a clearer message as they reached the last 16 for the first time since 2008/09 - this is not simply a stage they belong on, but one in which to show off the full extent of their artillery.

Liverpool have scored 29 goals in eight Champions League games under Klopp - all the best to whomever they draw next.

Philippe Coutinho Robert Firmino Mohamed Salah Liverpool

"This year it’s quite special; I don’t think it’s very often you can face Bayern Munich and Real Madrid in the last 16 if you win the group," said the Reds boss. 

"And Juve! And all the others! That’s quite interesting. Antonio Conte said it yesterday, there are no easy opponents in it.

"I don’t think anybody is happy when they get us in the draw, so we will not be happy in the moment when we see who we will face in the next round, but we will be ready – that’s for sure."

Who is the best No.9 in the world?

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Who is the best No.9 in the world?

  • 25%Karim Benzema
  • 32%Erling Haaland
  • 4%Harry Kane
  • 13%Robert Lewandowski
  • 14%Kylian Mbappe
  • 11%Victor Osimhen
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