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Dublin: 13 °C Thursday 18 October, 2018


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Good evening everybody.

Liverpool have failed to make the knockout stages of this competition since 2009. But that should all change tonight.

Jurgen Klopp’s side will go through as group winners if they beat their Russian guests tonight. They will also qualify for the last 16 with a draw.

So, everything is firmly within their grasp.



Klopp has made five changes from the side that absolutely thumped Brighton at the weekend.

Loris Karius is back in goal, Joe Gomez, Ragnar Klavan and Alberto Moreno come into defence and Sadio Mane also returns.

Philippe Coutinho skippers the side with Jordan Henderson dropping to the bench.

Liverpool XI: Karius, Gomez, Klavan, Lovren, Moreno, Can, Wijnaldum, Coutinho, Mane, Salah, Firmino.



Here’s how Spartak Moscow will line up this evening. They need to win tonight to reach the knockout stages, as they trail Sevilla by two points ahead of this game.

Ze Luis has scored in the side’s last two Champions League games while Fernando grabbed their go-ahead goal in the reverse fixture back in September that ended 1-1.

Spartak Moscow XI: Selikhov, Eshchenko, Tasci, Bocchetti, Dzhikija, Zobnin, Glushakov, Fernando, Promes, Luiz Adriano, Ze Luis.

Here’s Jurgen Klopp explaining his team selection for this clash, including the decision to leave Henderson out.

“I thought the best way not to lose is to win the game. It’s a completely different game [to the one in Moscow], they have a different side with three or four important players back in the squad.

We have to work, be well organised and play football. It is our home game and we are a strong side, so we should show that – we should show what we are fighting for.

I have a lot of difficult decisions – good decisions to make in the moment – so this is the line-up for tonight and that’s all.”

The last time Spartak Moscow made it to the knockout stages of this competition, they were superb in the group stage and won every game.

In their penultimate group fixture, they hosted Blackburn and this infamous moment ensued!

Champions League.   Spartak Moscow v Blackburn Rovers Source: Andy Heading

By the way, a really good Spartak were beaten by Nantes in the quarter-finals that year (1996). And the French side boasted an eye-catching central midfielder at the time.

Can you recognise him?


We’re about to get underway here. Cracking atmosphere inside Anfield.


What a start for the home side here. Mo Salah gets tangled up by Dzhikiya – there’s definite shirt pulling but hard to know who’s doing more of it – and he ends up on the deck. Referee points to the spot and Coutinho stutters on his run-up before tucking it away.

Flag 6Mins

BOOKING! Dzhikiya gets a yellow for the foul, by the way, and he needs to be careful now.

Flag 7Mins

BOOKING! Can dives into a challenge with his studs up and referee is instantly there to take action. A stern talking to for the German but he escapes with a yellow.


Early doors but you feel Liverpool will have little problem creating chances here. Mane is slipped in by Coutinho and after steadying himself, he drives a right-footed shot into the side-netting. That opened up pretty easily after the Brazilian’s clever pass.

Flag 19Mins

That’s a superbly-worked goal from the home side but Spartak have no idea how to combat Liverpool’s setup.

Salah is playing on the shoulder of Firmino, with Mane in a more orthodox wide-right position and Coutinho on the left but with freedom to roam.

And that’s exactly what happened here.

Salah makes an excellent run through the middle as Firmino is the decoy but the pair eventually combine. Firmino peels away to pick up the pass in the right channel and when he gets his head up, there’s Coutinho arriving at the far post.

The pass is perfect and so is the finish.


This is an absolute rout. Mane races into the right channel and Spartak can’t clear their lines. The ball breaks to Firmino, who thumps to the corner with the inside of his right foot.



Luiz Adriano looks bright and lively but his side haven’t exactly put up a solid platform for him. Liverpool are already out of sight but the guests have the ability to cause problems.



Spartak have threatened in the last few minutes but the home side have been able to handle it so far. Inevitably, everything has lulled a bit after a rip-roaring opening 20 minutes. But if the Russians get one back, it’s bound to fuel some nerves.


Karius has got absolutely clattered (but survived) after racing about 40 yards from his goal to get to a ball that Joe Gomez had covered anyway. That’s not going to help the nerves!

Flag 35Mins

CHANCE! At one end, Promes tests Karius with a low drive but Liverpool instantly go up the other end and Firmino plays in Salah, who back-heels perfectly into Mane’s path. But he lacks control and calm in front of goal and blazes over.



Moreno is down and receiving treatment and looks in a bad way. He went in to block a shot but just dangled his boot and caught the full blast of the contact as a result. That may be enough to force him off, to be honest.


Moreno has shaken it off and gingerly steps back on the field. The medical staff may reassess at the break & with a 3-0 cushion, don’t be surprised if we see James Milner for the second half.

Flag 46Mins

SUBSTITUTION! Milner (on) – Moreno (off)

Oh, hang on. Moreno is down again and can’t continue. I’m not really sure why they allowed him back on. It seemed to be quite a smack he received and he’s surely going to miss the weekend derby and maybe a few more games too. Milner, as expected, is on.


Well, that was a very entertaining half. Spartak slowly found their way into the half but were already 3-0 behind at that stage. They had little answer to Liverpool’s attacking setup and were left dazed and confused by the movement and energy of Salah, Firmino, Coutinho and Mane.

The penalty giveaway after just four minutes immediately put them on the back-foot but everything quickly torpedoed after that.

Still, it says much that if Spartak get an early goal back in the second half, you remain concerned by how Liverpool will react.

Flag 49Mins

Well, now it’s time to relax for Liverpool. They started the first-half brilliantly and now they’ve repeated the trick for the second period. Milner, on for the injured Moreno just before the break, is played in on the overlap and he sends in an absolutely superb cross with his left foot.

It’s pinpoint for Mane, who volleys to the net.


A big deflection but Coutinho has his hat-trick. Milner knocks the pass inside and the Brazilian takes it at pace and shoots quickly with his left. It nicks off a white shirt and squeezes inside the near post. Resounding stuff.


Flag 61Mins

SUBSTITUTIONS! Alexander-Arnold (on) – Lovren (off) & Pašalić (in) – Dzhikiya (out)

Klopp certainly has an eye on the Merseyside derby at the weekend so makes his second change here. Worth pointing out that Pasalic is a Chelsea player and on loan with Spartak.

Flag 62Mins

CLOSE! Sarah does brilliantly and conjures a moment of magic to evade a couple of tackles before opening up his body and looking to caress a low left foot strike to the far corner. But the keeper stretches and tips it around for a corner. Good stop and preventing what would have been a really special goal.


By the way, anyone still wondering who that Nantes midfielder I referenced pre-game was…the answer is Claude Makelele.

Flag 72Mins

SUBSTITUTION! Sturridge (on) – Firmino (off)

Final change for Liverpool here and a breather for Firmino ahead of the Everton fixture. A good shift from him: a goal and an assist.

Flag 74Mins

CLOSE! Promes, who is an impressive player and will probably get a move elsewhere, almost bends one to the far corner after some Spartak pressure but it whips just wide.


Well, that’s a great finish from Mane because when Liverpool break (interception in midfield) and Salah feeds Sturridge, the low cross is inexplicably behind Mane and he has to hook the ball in. Not the prettiest but he does really well to tuck it away. This could end up 8-0 here.


Flag 84Mins

VERY CLOSE! Sturridge should really score after Alexander-Arnold fires in a low cross that’s just begging to be knocked to the net. But Sturridge stabs at it and knocks it over the bar.


A magnificent seven for Liverpool tonight. And still time for more. It’s beautifully done by Salah but initial good work from Can who swings a great pass into the path of Milner who heads across the area. Sturridge dummies and Salah looks like he’s going to strike with his left before conjuring a Cruyff turn, bamboozling a Spartak defender and driving to the net with his right instead.


If you’re losing count, the scorers tonight:

Coutinho (3), Mane (2), Firmino, Salah.


He’s certain to be shortlisted for Player of the Year.


Well, what an emphatic result that is. Liverpool were excellent and so good going forward. These type of European results come along so rarely but they’ve put up a 7-0 scoreline twice in this group stage.

Overall, it’s 23 goals in just six games and they stride into the knockout round.

They were in front after just four minutes thanks to a Coutinho penalty and poor Spartak could not steady themselves until the damage was already done and it was 3-0 at the break with Coutinho grabbing a brace and Firmino adding another.

It was more of the same after the restart as the hosts started brilliantly, Mane volleying home after an expert Milner cross.

He only came on as a late substitute in the first-half but Milner really enjoyed himself and set up Coutinho for his hat-trick just three minutes later.

Mane got his brace after being set up by Daniel Sturridge before Salah capped a terrific performance with one of his own.

That means that five Premier League teams will be in the Round of 16 draw, four of them having won their groups.

And what a performance to conjure before a Merseyside derby too.

Thanks for staying with us throughout the game and there’s plenty of more reaction to come tonight.

About the author:

Eoin O'Callaghan


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