Liverpool vs Spartak Moscow: Five things we learned as Reds turned on the style to claim top spot in Group E

Jack Austin, Lawrence Ostlere
Liverpool vs Spartak Moscow: Five things we learned as Reds turned on the style to claim top spot in Group E

Liverpool were at their free-flowing best as they saw off Spartak Moscow at Anfield to claim top spot in Group E.

Philippe Coutinho scored a hat-trick while Roberto Firmino, Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane found the back of the net too as they ripped through the visitors.

The result means the Reds will be seeded heading into Monday's last-16 draw.

Here are five things we learned from the match.

AS IT HAPPENED: Liverpool v Spartak Moscow

 

READ MORE: Liverpool captain Coutinho leads rampant Reds to victory

 

READ MORE: Champions League roundup - Spurs and Liverpool star, Manchester clubs stutter

Captain Coutinho

Jurgen Klopp dropped the biggest hint yet that his talisman Philippe Coutinho would not be making the move to Barcelona by handing the Brazilian the captain’s armband in the absence of regular skipper Jordan Henderson. Coutinho’s summer was dominated by his desire to move to the La Liga giants, so much so that he tried to force it with a late transfer request that was ultimately denied by Liverpool.

Barca have made noise about having the finances to go back in for Coutinho in January with the playmaker still believed to want the move to the Catalan capital but Klopp’s move in handing him the armband suggests his and the club’s stance has not altered from the summer. They still see Coutinho as their main man, and they’re making sure Barca know it.

Henderson 'hurting'

It was a brilliant night for Coutinho but a worrying one for Jordan Henderson after the club captain was left out of the starting line-up by Klopp in what was a crucial match. “I’m sure it will (hurt him)," Steven Gerrard said on BT Sport. "As a player you want to play on these big nights, these big occasions. But I think all of the Liverpool players have been buying into the Jurgen Klopp way of late.

"That is to make two or three changes every game and rotate and freshen the team up. I didn’t like that as a player, I wanted to play every game, especially as captain, you want to be the first name on the team-sheet. So I’m sure Jordan is hurting a little bit but I’m sure he will understand if they get the right result."

Klopp flexes attacking muscles

As much as Liverpool needed to win on Wednesday night, the manner in which they did it was relentless and that was down to their front four of Sadio Mane, Coutinho, Roberto Firmino and Mohamed Salah. Pace, creativity and merciless finishing in abundance and a demonstration of what Liverpool have should they need it.

Rarely is such an attacking need required by the Reds but Klopp flexed his muscles in showcasing his four stars to the rest of the Champions League – and Premier League. Add the nearly fit-again Adam Lallana to that mix and suddenly you have one of the most exciting attacks left in the competition. The way they cut open Spartak Moscow so effortlessly in the first 20 minutes alone will make a number of their rivals stand up and take notice.

Top spot is crucial boost

There are some notable teams among those to have finished second in their group in this Champions League phase, with Real Madrid and Juventus in the pack Liverpool could face in Monday's last-16 draw. Even so, there's no doubt they have given themselves a better chance of progressing deeper into the tournament having clinched top spot, with Paris Saint-Germain and Barcelona both lurking as possibilities had they slipped up and finished second and fewer alternatives to help avoid the big fish.

Monday's draw promises to throw up some mouth-watering contests – Liverpool will just hope they have done enough to avoid being involved in one of them.

No collapse this time

Liverpool have enjoyed plenty of early leads this season, only to enjoy them a little too much and throw away their advantage. Klopp has consistently rebuffed suggestions of a mental fragility within his squad and on this occasion his team illustrated their ability to manage their advantage through to the final whistle. That kind of discipline will be critical when they come to the two-legged knockout stage ties ahead.

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