Liverpool Shine as Premier League Sides Sweep into Champions League Last 16
The Champions League’s last 16 has been finalised following the final round of group games, and the Premier League is in a pretty strong position with all five teams advancing to the knockout stages.
Things were still in the balance for Liverpool heading into the final game, but Jurgen Klopp’s side dispelled any fears with another sizzling display – dispatching Spartak Moscow 7-0 at Anfied.
Since their mauling at the hands of Tottenham Hotspur in October, Klopp’s men have been playing some of the best football in Europe and Spartak felt the full force of their attacking options.
Philippe Coutinho, Mo Salah, Roberto Firmino and Sadio Mane have been billed Liverpool’s Fab Four and all were on target.
Spartak’s race was run inside four minutes when Georgi Dzhikiya felled Salah in the box and Coutinho slotted home the penalty.
Coutinho went on to complete his hat-trick, while Mane netted twice and Firmino and Salah one apiece as Liverpool secured top spot in the group.
Top spot used to mean, more often than not, a decent draw in the first knockout round – but it looks a perilous place to be this time.
With Tottenham Hotspur turning on the style and winning Group H, Real Madrid came second in that pool so the champions of Europe are potential opponents – as are the mighty Bayern Munich and Juventus. Shakhtar Donetsk, Porto and Basel would be the preferred options for any of the English sides who topped their group – Tottenham, Manchester City and Manchester United making up that quartet.
Chelsea were the only Premier League side not to claim top spot in the group and they face the prospect of ties with Barcelona or Paris Saint-Germain – and fingers will be firmly crossed at Stamford Bridge that they come out alongside Turkish side Besiktas in Monday’s draw.
Pep Guardiola proved he is working with humans as opposed to machines, as his Manchester City side suffered their first defeat of the season in any competition – a 2-1 loss at Shakhtar Donetsk.
With top spot in the group already secured, and a derby game with Manchester United on Sunday, Guardiola shuffled his options. Phil Foden started at left back, while Yaya Toure, Ilkay Gundogan and Bernardo Silva all got rare starts. They did not overly impress and are unlikely to be in contention to start against United.
The most interesting selection was that of Gabriel Jesus from the start. With Guardiola recently claiming that the Brazilian and Sergio Aguero cannot play together due to the injury to Benjamin Mendy, it could be that the Argentina striker will get the nod to start the derby game.
Aguero climbed off the bench and netted a late consolation from the penalty spot, but focus will have turned to the derby even before they had reached the airport to leave the Ukraine.
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