Published On: Thu, Dec 7th, 2017

Combined XI: How Klopp's squad compares to Liverpool's last knockout side

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Daniel Rouse, Michael J. Chandler

14m ago

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Not since 2008 has Liverpool progressed to the Champions League knockout stage, and by virtue of Wednesday’s 7-0 drubbing of Spartak Moscow, Jurgen Klopp’s charges joined an esteemed class of sides to make the last 16.

When Rafa Benitez led the Reds to a group stage conquest over Atletico Madrid, Marseille, and PSV in 2008-09, it bookended a five-year spell of continental success for the club that included the stunning come-from-behind victory over AC Milan in the final and a corresponding defeat to I Rossoneri two years later.

Looking back at those squads, Liverpool was a balanced and organised side that profitted from equal parts resolute defending and strong midfield play. What those iterations of the club boasted in defence, Klopp’s current lot offers in offence, with a lethal combination of pace and trickery highlighting a team that counter-attacks at breakneck speed.

Now that Klopp and Co. have ended a a nine-year wait for Champions League progression, here’s a composite starting XI from this year’s entry and the sides that enjoyed European success in 2008-09.

The lineup


Bench: Simon Mignolet; Martin Skrtel, Sami Hyypia; Philippe Coutinho, Adam Lallana; Roberto Firmino, Dirk Kuyt

Goalkeeper


If Mignolet and Loris Karius have produced erratic performances and provoked continual worry, current Napoli shot-stopper Pepe Reina was a symbol of consistency. During his eight-year Merseyside tenure, Reina made 86 continental appearances, missing out on Jerzy Dudek’s display in the miracle in Istanbul by a year.

Defenders


While Joel Matip has shown flashes of brilliance with Liverpool, it’s not enough to make this hypothetical squad, where Daniel Agger and Jamie Carragher instead team up as a ball-stopping centre-half pairing. Fabio Aurelio and Alvaro Arbeloa sandwich the central defenders with a blend of old-school, studs-up defending and the penchant for streaking forward that’s common in the modern game.

Midfielders


Xabi Alonso. Javier Mascherano. Steven Gerrard. There’s a reason this three-man Liverpool midfield was about as easy to break down as a retaining wall with deeply dug foundations. This trio had a little bit of everything: Mascherano’s ball-stopping skills were world-class, Stevie G could string a delicate pass while blasting measured shots from distance, and there was no midfielder more adept at stringing a long ball than Alonso.

Forwards


Before Chelsea-era Fernando Torres became the poster boy for failures in the absence of confidence, Liverpool goal machine Fernando Torres was one of Europe’s most clinical finishers. Pairing the Spaniard with star wingers Sadio Mane and Mohamed Salah would form an unplayable trio in attack that could score any number of ways.

(Photos courtesy: Getty Images)



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