Liverpool FC defeated Austrian club LASK 4-0 in the Europa League on Thursday, and sealed the top spot in Group E. The Reds have qualified for the Round of 16 of the Europa League with one game still remaining in the group stage.
Colombian striker Luis Diaz opened the scoring at Anfield just 12 minutes after kick-off. Three minutes later, Dutch forward Cody Gakpo doubled Liverpool's lead. Gakpo finished the game with an excellent brace, while Mohamed Salah also managed to get on the scoresheet to round off a very satisfying evening. The Egyptian King scored from the spot early in the second half.
With Toulouse failing to defeat Union Saint-Gilloise, Jurgen Klopp's Reds were assured of an automatic place in the last-16 of the competition.
Liverpool's Round of 16 opponents
The group winners in the Europa League receive a straight qualification for the last-16 stage and avoid an extra round in which the runners-up face off against the Champions League drop-outs. Now that Liverpool have qualified for the knock-out stage, they don't have to think about Thursday night European football until early March.
Many are keen to learn who Liverpool could play in the last-16 round. At this stage, it is difficult to predict as the play-off round involving the group runners-up and Champions League drop-outs is set to take place between Feb. 15 and Feb. 22, with Liverpool taking on the resultant play-off winners.
As things stand now, there are still a number of sides that could drop into the Europa League from the top European competition, including Manchester United, Paris Saint-Germain (PSG), Porto and Napoli.
Other Champions League clubs such as Young Boys, Feyenoord, Red Bull Salzburg and FC Copenhagen are some of the other teams that could enter the Europa League's playoff round.
Jurgen Klopp's disappointment
Liverpool boss Klopp was happy with the performance of his side but he did point out an instance that disappointed him. "A lot of positives in the game. The thing I didn't like, and I told the boys at half-time, was that this game should have been put to bed by half-time," said Klopp at the post-match conference.
Salah was surprisingly named in the starting line-up for the game against LASK despite the Reds being on the verge of qualification for the next round. However, the match saw Salah captaining Liverpool in the absence of Virgil van Dijk, while vice-captain Trent Alexander-Arnold started on the bench.
Mo Salah's 199 goals
It was just the second time Salah had been given the armband - the first coming in the 2-1 win against Bournemouth in the Carabao Cup. It was, however, the first time that he had captained Liverpool at Anfield.
Salah's wait to lead Liverpool in front of the home fans was long overdue for the talented forward. He had previously complained about not being given the armband. The 31-year-old player even spoke out that he was shocked he was not made captain during a clash with Midtjylland back in 2020, when Alexander-Arnold was handed the armband.
"Honestly, I was very disappointed. I was expecting to be the captain. But it's the manager's decision, so I accept it," Salah said at that time.
The second-half penalty on Thursday took Salah's goals tally to 199 in the Liverpool shirt. Salah is just a strike away from becoming only the third Liverpool player with 200 goals, after Ian Rush (336 goals) and Roger Hunt (261 goals).
The former Roma forward has netted 13 goals and five assists in 19 matches in all competitions for Liverpool in the 2023-24 season. He has been exceptional in the Premier League especially, having scored 10 goals in 13 games as the Reds are in third place with 28 points, two behind leaders Arsenal and one behind second-placed Manchester City.
Liverpool are next in action on Sunday as they host Fulham in the league at Anfield.