Despite some scary moments, Liverpool finished on top of Group E.Clive Brunskill/Getty Images
Liverpool trounced Spartak Moscow on Wednesday to secure a place in the knockout stages of the UEFA Champions League for the first time since the 2008/09 season.
A European campaign that started with a tricky play-off against Hoffenheim way back in August will now stretch into 2018, even if the Reds at times made heavy weather of qualifying from Group E.
A cosy draw didn't look so comfortable after picking up just two points from their opening pair of games. However, Maribor were dismissed twice by a 10-0 aggregate scoreline, and despite a second-half collapse in Seville, Liverpool sealed top spot in style with a 7-0 triumph over Spartak at Anfield.
While they wait to see who they are drawn against next Monday, Bleacher Report decided to look back at Liverpool's European season so far, ranking every player who has appeared in the competition for the club.
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20. Marko Grujic
Midfielder Grujic was spotted on the field for all of six minutes, barely getting on prior to the final whistle in the first leg of the play-off in Hoffenheim before enjoying a slightly earlier introduction at home to Maribor.
It appears that might be his only contribution in the competition this season, too. Klopp has said he is open to the idea of allowing the talented young Serb to leave on loan in the January transfer window, per James Pearce of the Liverpool Echo.
19. Dominic Solanke
Signed from Chelsea in the summer, Solanke has shown promise in his brief appearances for his new club, including setting up the opening goal in the away win at Stoke City on his first Premier League start.
However, he's barely had a chance in the Champions League to date. Like Grujic, the striker came off the bench away to Hoffenheim and also at home against Maribor. If Klopp has a fully fit squad to choose from, the 20-year-old could be nothing more than a spectator for the next round.
18. Simon MignoletMark Robinson/Getty Images
Klopp's decision to rotate his goalkeepers came after Liverpool had qualified for the group stage. Before then, Mignolet was between the posts for both legs with Hoffenheim, conceding three goals over the tie.
The Belgian saved a penalty away in Germany, guessing right to keep out Andrej Kramaric's weak spot-kick when the score was still 0-0, but he has since had to settle for being Loris Karius' back-up.
Will the manager maintain the same policy further down the line, choosing to split playing time between the two?
17. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain
Of the 127 minutes Oxlade-Chamberlain has played in the Champions League for Liverpool so far, all but four of them came in the two lopsided games against Maribor.
The deadline-day signing from Arsenal opened his account for the club when scoring in the 7-0 rout in Slovenia, coolly slotting home Daniel Sturridge's through ball. Oxlade-Chamberlain was signed with a long-term plan in mind—while sporadically involved for now, things could easily be different by next February.
16. Joe Gomez
Nathaniel Clyne's injury issues opened the door for Gomez to step in at right-back. More at home in the centre of the defence, the 20-year-old has had to learn on the job.
He flunked his first test in the Champions League, as he was sent off at home in the 2-2 draw with Sevilla, while he was also part of the back four that failed to hang on to a commanding lead in the return fixture on Spanish soil.
Even with a clean sheet to finish against sorry Spartak (which saw Gomez finish the game alongside Ragnar Klavan at centre-back), the England international doesn't have a strong case to crack the top 10.
15. Dejan LovrenDavid Ramos/Getty Images
Lovren recovered from a shocking start to help Liverpool progress. His early error that gifted Sevilla the lead at Anfield didn't prove too costly in the end, but the team cannot afford similar mishaps moving forward.
The Croatian has to be marked down for his involvement in the 3-3 result in the return fixture against the same opponents, too. While there were clean sheets against inferior competition, they count for little.
14. Daniel Sturridge
As seems to be the case under Klopp these days, Sturridge played second fiddle to Firmino, though he still managed a goal and two assists during his limited time on the pitch in the Champions League.
The England international came off the bench in five of the six group games, scoring the third and final goal at home to Maribor, but his brief cameos only added up to a lowly total of 83 minutes played.
It will be interesting to see if Sturridge is still a Liverpool player by the time they next play in Europe. According to El Gol (h/t Harry Howes of the Star), the Reds are in talks over a potential deal for the player to move to Real Betis in the next transfer window.
13. Jordan Henderson
Liverpool's two 7-0 victories in the group came without their club captain on the field. Henderson sat on the bench and watched on as his team-mates put Maribor and Spartak to the sword.
Should the midfielder be worried by the team's performances without him? Not really, no. He should, though, be concerned how his presence on the field couldn't help stop the second-half slide at Sevilla.
Henderson doesn't deserve the level of criticism he receives from some fans on social media—but, as skipper, he also needs to exert greater influence over his colleagues when the going gets tough.
12. Alberto MorenoKIRILL KUDRYAVTSEV/Getty Images
Now established as the first-choice left-back, Moreno has started every one of Liverpool's games in Europe. He's provided three assists in those appearances, demonstrating how he can make a difference in attack.
And yet, despite all he's contributed to the campaign, it is hard to forget his meltdown away in Sevilla. Playing against his former club, the Spain international endured a nightmare return to familiar surroundings. After being at fault for two of the three goals Liverpool conceded, he was hauled off after 63 minutes.
He didn't finish the emphatic victory over Spartak in the next game either, albeit his early departure on that occasion was down to an ankle injury.
11. Ragnar Klavan
Klavan has experienced both ends of the spectrum in the Champions League.
While the veteran centre-back kept a clean sheet on his first European start for the club, he was also a member of the back four who collapsed on Spanish soil, as Sevilla rallied to grab a point that had seemed so unlikely at the half-time interval.
While he returned from illness to help secure qualification at Anfield, concerns over Klavan's lack of pace, as well as his inability to cope under pressure, is worrying ahead of games against stronger opposition.
10. Loris Karius
A Champions League specialist, Karius has still yet to fully convince he has what it takes to establish himself as Liverpool's No. 1 in all competitions.
Still, whoever starts between the sticks is too often let down by those playing in front of him. The German was left badly exposed in both outings against Sevilla but was a virtual spectator in the other games.
There were some smart saves at the Ramon Sanchez-Pizjuan in particular, and he could do little about the three goals the visitors conceded after the break. Karius is a work in progress, though rustiness could be an issue early next year if he remains stuck behind Mignolet for domestic duties.
9. Georginio WijnaldumAitor Alcalde/Getty Images
Wijnaldum is the footballing equivalent of a cheese and pickle sandwich. Neither are overly flash, but both do a job in terms of filling a hole.
The Dutchman is a steady Eddie, a seven-out-of-10 type who Klopp clearly trusts in the big games. If there's one disappointment with the former Newcastle United player in Europe so far, it's his lack of impact in the final third. He registered just one assist, away in Sevilla, during the group games.
8. Joel Matip
Matip played every minute of the campaign until a thigh problem ruled him out of the last two group games. Liverpool missed him away at Sevilla as well, as they fell apart after the break to let slip a 3-0 lead.
While the Reds comfortably survived without the centre-back against a Spartak side who had seemingly failed to bother doing any research on their opponents, they will hope he is fit to feature in the next round.
James Pearce of the Liverpool Echo reported Matip "may not play again until January." With the last-16 ties taking place the following month, the defender is likely to slot straight back into the lineup once healthy.
7. Emre Can
After scoring twice in the 4-2 home win over Hoffenheim in qualifying, Can was more often than not used in a defensive role in Group E. The only game he didn't start was in Sevilla, when his presence in front of the back four might have helped prevent the second-half rot setting in.
By the time he was summoned from the bench, it was too late to stem the Spanish tide, as Liverpool's lead was swept away in what was the definition of a game of two halves.
The German is also pushed outside the top six due to picking up a careless yellow card in the final game, with his third booking in the group stage ruling him out of the first leg of the last-16 tie. Tut-tut, Emre.
6. Trent Alexander-ArnoldDANIEL ROLAND/Getty Images
Teenager Alexander-Arnold scored the club's opening goal in their European campaign, curling home a glorious free-kick to set Liverpool on their way against Hoffenheim.
"Well, I have to say for an 18-year-old who has the balls to take a free-kick like that, it is rather exciting and interesting for me than a little mistake he did,” Klopp said in the aftermath, per Mark Critchley of The Independent.
He also found the net in Maribor, once again demonstrating his attacking instincts. With Klopp opting for the more defensive-minded Gomez in both games against Sevilla, Alexander-Arnold's position is improved by his lack of involvement in the sloppy draws with the La Liga club.
5. James MilnerJURE MAKOVEC/Getty Images
Despite totalling just 252 minutes of action in the group stage, Milner managed more assists (five) than any other Liverpool player. In fact, according to UEFA.com, no one had more in the entire competition.
His final tally was boosted by three against Spartak on Wednesday, all of them coming in the second half after he'd replaced the injured Moreno at left-back just before the break.
In the games against Maribor, Milner captained the team from a midfield role. That versatility is useful for Klopp, yet it may take an injury crisis for the 31-year-old Yorkshireman to get a starting berth in the last 16.
4. Sadio ManeDavid Ramos/Getty Images
Mane could easily have been ranked higher than fourth had a hamstring injury not sidelined him for the home-and-away fixtures against Maribor. Liverpool coped easily without him, yet the Senegalese missed the chance to fill his boots.
Still, a tally of three goals in four appearances is impressive. Mane found the net twice in the second half of the thrashing of Spartak, including an acrobatic volley in front of the Kop straight after half-time.
Perhaps overshadowed by the top three in this list, the 25-year-old still remains a pivotal part of Liverpool's newest fab four. No team will relish having to deal with the Reds' forwards in the knockout stages.
3. Mohamed SalahClive Brunskill/Getty Images
Salah is the signing of the summer, surely. Some suggested Liverpool had overpaid for a player who failed previously to make the grade at Chelsea, yet the Egyptian has emphatically silenced those doubters with his scoring form for his new employers.
The addition from AS Roma is a sniper who has pace to burn. With Salah settling in so quickly, Liverpool's supporters have a new hero to cherish. Best of all, his relatively young age (25) means there should still be room for improvement.
Salah finished with a final total of five goals in the group stage, including bagging a brace in the 7-0 demolition of Maribor before he was substituted just shy of the hour mark.
2. Philippe CoutinhoPAUL ELLIS/Getty Images
A group stage that started with a tentative return to club duty finished with Coutinho wearing the captain's armband as he scored his first hat-trick for the club.
The cameo off the bench against Sevilla on September 13 was the Brazilian playmaker's first appearance since his failure to force through a move to Barcelona—and the fans demonstrated their continued support by applauding his introduction for the final 15 minutes.
He received another ovation at Anfield when claiming the match ball at the end of Wednesday's game with Spartak, having notched Liverpool's first treble in the Champions League since Yossi Benayoun achieved the same feat a decade ago.
1. Roberto FirminoCRISTINA QUICLER/Getty Images
While Salah's been Liverpool's star turn in the Premier League, Firmino's first-class performances in Europe (and overlooking his missed penalty against Sevilla) deservedly sees him sit atop of these rankings.
The Brazilian scored six goals in as many games and also weighed in with three assists. However, his most crucial contribution in the competition came before the group stage had begun, as he helped oust former club Hoffenheim in the play-offs with a sensational display in the second leg.
When Firmino's link-up play is on point, Liverpool look a far more dangerous side. Hopefully, he carries this form forward to the knockout stages, as no one else in the squad can replicate his role in the team.
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Mohamed Salah (18) & Roberto Firmino (12) have now scored a combined 30 goals for Liverpool this season. At least one of the pair has scored in each of Liverpool's last 11 matches https://t.co/9rtPLrXKl2
Rob Lancaster is a Featured Columnist for Bleacher Report who covers Liverpool. All statistics used in the article are from WhoScored.com unless otherwise stated.
Source : https://bleacherreport.com/articles/2747403-power-ranking-every-player-for-liverpool-in-2017-champions-league-group-stage