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Philippe Coutinho leads Liverpool’s merry band of inspired attackers | Andy Hunter

Philippe Coutinho and Liverpool’s frontline ran riot against Spartak Moscow to show they are a team to fear in the knockout stages of the Champions League

Jürgen Klopp bestowed the Liverpool captaincy on Philippe Coutinho for the first time in a competitive fixture against Spartak Moscow, acutely aware it will not be the fleeting honour that ensures the Brazilian’s loyalty amid interest from Barcelona but the continued promise of a shot at the Champions League. The destruction of the Russian champions, with Coutinho at the heart, kept the promise alive and Barcelona waiting.

Liverpool’s coveted playmaker responded to the armband with the first hat-trick of his Anfield career as Klopp’s team took their prolific tally to 12 goals in two games before Sunday’s Merseyside derby. It was the first treble by a Liverpool player in the Champions League since Yossi Benayoun’s against Besiktas a decade ago and helped deliver the most productive return by an English team in the group stage of the competition. They are a team to fear in Europe this season and should have Coutinho along for the duration given the momentum that is building behind Klopp’s side.

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