By Richard Buxton, Special to Sportsnet

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND – Dining at European football’s top table again has long been Liverpool’s raison d’etre – and now, they can finally pull up a chair.

Jurgen Klopp’s side did not merely scrape into the Champions League’s knockout phase, they swaggered to it with a resounding 7-0 hammering of Spartak Moscow on Wednesday, a feat that represents a significant turning point and has been almost eight years in the making. When the Champions League resumes in February, it will be a first time since 2009 that Liverpool have reached the knockout round of the Champions League, with only bruising early exits to show from their two group campaigns across the intervening years.

Rarely before have they reached the Round of 16 the easy way. Fine margins have played a part in their most iconic European moments, where late strikes were regularly required to tip the balance of power back in their favour.

UEFA’s decision to abolish the goal difference rule in their flagship competition’s group stages has denied Anfield the chance to enjoy such breathless, knife-edge moments as St Etienne in 1977 and Olympiakos in 2004. Perhaps it is for the best. When the current crop is performing …read more


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