We've reached the second half of the Sweet Sixteen in Liverpool March Madness and we are closer to your verdict on who has been the most important Liverpool player in the EPL era. You may have merrily clicked your way through the earlier rounds but this is where it starts to become uncomfortable.
Earlier you decided between the likes of Sami Hyypia and Xabi Alonso. Now, eyes glistening with power-crazed fervour, you must choose between the likes of Ian Rush and Luis Suarez. There are no easy choices remaining and someone's favourite will inevitably exit.
If you want to review what happened in the Benitez and Dalglish regions in the Round of 32, you can take a gander at the last round of voting while the whole bracket is still up on Oh You Beauty. Sweet Sixteen voting will conclude at 12 midnight GMT/7pm EST on Thursday.
1. Ian Rush v. 4. Luis Suarez
Liverpool's greatest striker of all time comes up against the man who has the potential to be the finest player of the modern era should he remain in red. Ian Rush's record is unassailable but only 67 of his remarkable 346 Liverpool goals came from the EPL—beginning '92-'93 season onwards. Luis Suarez has already reached the 50 goal mark in 93 appearances.
Rush brushed past his countryman Craig Bellamy with 92% of the vote last time out whilst Suarez had a tougher time in beating Daniel Agger, garnering just over 64% of the vote in the process. Both men fall into the world-class bracket, and, with one a club legend and the other on his way to similar status, there will likely be a generational aspect to the voting on this one.
3. Fernando Torres v. 7. Dirk Kuyt
It's hard to believe that the Alice-band-sporting figure-of-fun that Fernando Torres has become once looked set to break all scoring records at Liverpool Football Club. Torres notched a very impressive 81 goals in 142 appearances for the club, reaching 50 in just 84 matches. From the moment he skinned Tal Ben Haim to score on his debut, the Kop took the Spaniard to their hearts. He got almost 67% of the vote against Javier Mascherano, last time out but he will likely have a tougher battle in this round.
Dirk Kuyt's debut against West Ham was no less impressive, albeit for different reasons. In a fashion that would quickly become familiar, the Dutchman seemed to be everywhere at once, harrying, linking and providing attacking impetus. A crowd favourite was born. Kuyt, bought as a striker and converted to a wide man by Rafa Benitez, scored 71 goals in 285 appearances for the Redmen. He managed over 67% of the vote against Michael Owen in the last round and may have a real chance of upsetting another of the club's greatest strikers this time.
1. John Barnes v. 4. Steve Nicol
When John Barnes cruised past Glen Johnson in the last round with a comfortable 83% of the vote it was reminiscent of how he used to leave top defenders in his wake on the Liverpool left. By the EPL era Barnes was predominantly a central player, relying on his superior technique and vision to prompt Liverpool's attack. Like Rush, his finest days were in the old First Division, before Sky 'invented' football, but for many of us he remains the finest Liverpool player since Kenny Dalglish, his mazy dribbles, crosses and goals etched forever in the collective consciousness of those who saw him.
Steve Nicol was a tremendous footballer blessed with power, pace, technique and an eye for goal. Nicol played for 13 seasons at Anfield, from '81 to '95, racking up 343 league games and 36 goals while winning five titles, three FA Cups, and a European Cup. In the previous round Nicol saw off his old mucker Ronnie Whelan, claiming over 65% of the vote. For many Nicol would be an automatic starter in an all-time Liverpool XI, but he may find the challenge of his other former team mate a bridge too far.
2. Steve McManaman v. 6. Lucas Leiva
Jan Molby was defeated by Lucas Leiva in the Round of 32, with the Brazilian taking almost 68% of the vote. It is testament to the popularity of the young midfielder that he managed to defeat a man with three titles, three FA Cups, a League Cup and the finest Scouse accent this side of Toxteth. Lucas needs precious little description, being a man whose courage, character and ability are on display for all to see in every match. He's played 207 times for Liverpool and 20 times for Brazil, providing the type of solidity, screening and link-up play that any modern team requires.
Steve McManaman was a truly outstanding footballer, criminally under-rated by many Liverpool fans. By the mid nineties, with the EPL well established, it was not uncommon to hear Liverpool dismissed as a one-man team, so all-pervasive had the Kirkdale man's influence become. His talent was only truly appreciated by some Reds after he left for Real Madrid, where he won two La Liga titles and two Champions League medals. 'Shaggy' edged out Jerzy Dudek in the last round with 74% of the votes cast in McManaman's favour. He will not find the opposition offered by Lucas Leiva to be as easy to overcome.
Liverpool March Madness:
Sweet Sixteen—Houllier and Evans Regions