LIVERPOOL, England — Three thoughts on Liverpool’s 7-0 win vs. Spartak Moscow in the UEFA Champions League.
1. Liverpool cruise into the Round of 16
Liverpool became the fourth Premier League team to qualify for the Champions League knockout stage as group winners by cruising to an emphatic 7-0 victory against Spartak Moscow at Anfield.
Only Paris Saint-Germain, with 25, have scored more group-stage goals than Liverpool’s 23 this season and Jurgen Klopp’s team showed again that they will be a threat to any team they face in the Round of 16 and beyond.
Spartak needed a win to qualify from Group E but, while rivals CSKA Moscow gave themselves a flicker of hope by scoring first against Manchester United at Old Trafford on Tuesday before losing 2-1, their Moscow rivals were on the ropes after just three minutes with Georgi Dzhikiya conceded a penalty following a clumsy challenge on Mohamed Salah.
Philippe Coutinho scored from the penalty spot and Liverpool proceeded to dismantle the Russian champions in emphatic fashion.
Two more Coutinho goals — one with a heavy deflection — as well as a brace from Sadio Mane and others from Salah and Roberto Firmino, made it a comfortable win and sent a warning to all potential opponents in next Monday’s draw.
With such attacking quality in their squad, Liverpool will be a dangerous outsider. Among their possible opponents, they could face reigning European champions Real Madrid or German giants Bayern Munich but, equally, the five-time winners might get the less formidable FC Basel or FC Porto.
But Liverpool’s cutting edge, plus the legendary Anfield atmosphere on European nights, will give them hope and belief against any opponent.
2. Mane back in the goals
Sadio Mane started the season with three goals in the first two weeks of the campaign, but his second-half double against Spartak were only his third and fourth for Liverpool since the end of August.
Injuries and the suspension he received for a red card against Manchester City have hampered his form and progress, but two goals in nine games is a poor scoring return for a player of such quality.
The Senegalese forward has brought plenty to the party during his relatively dry run, with his pace and movement creating goals and space for teammates, but every striker needs goals for confidence and Mane took his tally to four in four games with two against the Russian champions.
Even during his quiet run, Liverpool have still found goals in large numbers, with the likes of Salah, Firmino and Coutinho all weighing in and that is the beauty of Jurgen Klopp’s attacking options: When one, or even two of his “Fab Four” are off form, others are able to deliver.
With Adam Lallana closing on full fitness, Liverpool will head into the second half of the season with seriously impressive forward options and, though they continue to need attention at the back, they will give any opponent a stern test.
3. Moreno injury poses left-back dilemma
Alberto Moreno has his critics but the Liverpool left-back has become a key figure under Klopp this season; the clash against Spartak was his 20th appearance. As such, his departure due to an ankle injury on the stroke of half-time will be cause for concern ahead of Sunday’s Merseyside derby against Everton at Anfield.
James Milner was given the task of replacing Moreno from the bench but the former Manchester City man has always only ever been a stop-gap at full-back.
Andy Robertson, an £8 million summer signing from Hull, would seem the obvious replacement but, having made only his third Premier League appearance of the season in the 5-1 win at Brighton last Saturday, the 23-year-old was not even named as a substitute on Wednesday.
If Moreno is forced to sit out the derby — and the way he limped off suggested he may miss more than one game — Klopp has a decision to make: Does he go with a natural left-back in Robertson, or will he play an out-of-position Milner in that slot?
Mark Ogden is a senior football writer for ESPN FC. Follow him @MarkOgden_