We've reached the Sweet Sixteen in Liverpool March Madness as we work towards voting down to the club's most important player of the Premier League era. Things started to get tough in the Round of 32, and now with the original 64 names whittled down to a mere 16 it's almost guaranteed that every pairing will bring with it the chance to send a fan favourite or star player packing.
For a closer look at what happened in the Houllier and Evans regions in the round of 32 you can head on back to the last round of voting, and the entire bracket can still be found over on Oh You Beauty. Sweet Sixteen voting will run until 12 midnight GMT/7PM EST on Thursday, with voting in the Benitez and Dalglish regions kicking off later today.
1. Steven Gerrard v. 4. Pepe Reina
Liverpool's captain cruised through the first two rounds of the competition, racking up over 97% of the vote not just against 18-seed Djimi Traore in the first round but also against Istanbul hero Vladimir Smicer in the second round. Pepe Reina had a slightly tougher time of it but still managed around 90% of the vote as he saw off first Philippe Coutinho and then Jari Litmanen.
Gerrard will again be clear favourite, and as important as Reina has been to Liverpool in his eight seasons at the club, the real question is likely whether the man who has scored more than 150 goals in over 600 appearances for the club he grew up supporting can once again dispatch his opponent with ease or if Reina can finally give him some real competition.
2. Sami Hyypia v. 3. Xabi Alonso
For many, Hyypia is the club's best defender of the past 20 years and quite possibly Liverpool's best ever player born outside the British Isles. Alonso, though, has his own loyal supporters who would hand that later honour to the Basque playmaker. Hyypia grew up supporting Liverpool and has longevity on his side—he spent ten years at the club and anchored the defence for many of them. Alonso, meanwhile, was at his best a player who could have walked into any side in the world.
Both dispatched their opponents in the opening rounds with ease; both are amongst the most popular Liverpool players of the past decade; both have have strong cases why they deserve to reach the final round of Houllier Region. Only one can make it there.
1. Robbie Fowler v. 4. Gary McAllister
Like Steven Gerrard in Houllier Region, Robbie Fowler has made it to the Sweet Sixteen having faced little resistance from either Joe Cole or Peter Crouch. He will remain a strong favourite against set-piece specialist McAllister, who had a tougher road of it against Raul Meireles and Rob Jones but nevertheless has made it through to the third round of the competition representing 2001's historic cup treble.
Fowler remains one of the most personally popular players in Liverpool's history, and that popularity is backed by 183 goals in 369 appearances in two spells at the club. McAllister by contrast only spent two short seasons at the tail end of his career at the club, yet without him the successes of the Houllier era could not have existed.
2. Jamie Carragher v. 3. Dietmar Hamann
The second and third seeds in Evans Region sees a battle between two players who gave their all in 2005's Champions League final. Carragher made a pair of potentially game-saving interceptions in extra time while suffering from cramping. Hamann came on at the half—and then scored in the penalty shootout—despite a broken foot that had kept him out of the starting lineup.
Both are potential future managers of Liverpool Football Club; both are inextricably linked to some of its biggest successes of the 2000s. Carragher heads into this matchup the favourite thanks to his longevity and status as a local hero, but it would be unwise to completely count out the Didi Man before all the ballots are tallied.