It may be the first of April, but we've got a few rounds left to go as we use the March Madenss format to vote our way down to the most important Liverpool player of the Premier League era. Today it's the Round of 32, and after an opening round that saw many waltzing largely uncontested to victory, the matchups begin to get far more difficult to call.
We kick things off with second round action in the Houllier and Evans Regions (click through to the regions for brief recaps of each player's achievements and see Oh You Beauty for the full bracket), with voting remaining open until 12 midnight GMT/7PM EST on Tuesday.
1. Steven Gerrard v. 9. Vladimir Smicer
Gerrard cruised to the Round of 32, dispatching Djimi Taore with ease, and though it will be tougher this time around for the current Liverpool captain who has scored 150 goals in 300 appearances, few will expect Smicer to put up much of a fight. The nine-seed Czech midfielder, meanwhile, fought off a late push by eight-seed Stephane Henchoz to register the minor upset and the chance to try for a far more monumental one.
4. Pepe Reina v. 12. Jari Litmanen
Litmanen had the upset of the first round, the popular 12-seed overcoming Jamie Redknapp, whose notoriety as a "Spice Boy" and role as pundit since retiring for many proved a larger negative than his contributions as a player were positives. Four-seed Reina, meanwhile, struggled more than expected against Jordan Henderson, just clearing 80% of the vote when the round of 64 ended and setting up a match that could be more competitive than it might first appear.
3. Xabi Alonso v. 6. Luis Garcia
Three-seed Alonso dispatched newcomer Philippe Coutinho with ease—but perhaps not as easily as one would expect given the young Brazilian has only been at the club a month. Despite his lasting popularity amongst Liverpool fans, then, there do remain some less enamoured by the Basque playmaker. Meanwhile, fan favourite Luis Garcia took just over 80% of the vote as he toppled the reliable Alvaro Arbeloa to advance.
2. Sami Hyypia v. 7. John Arne Riise
Sami Hyypia dominated his first round matchup, registering the most lopsided victory in the Houllier region. Despite that Riise managed nearly as easy a victory, the smart money will be on the Finnish centre half—arguably both the club's best ever player from outside the British Isles and its best defender of the Premier League era—defeating the Norwegian fullback fairly comfortably to advance to the Round of 16.
1. Robbie Fowler v. 8. Peter Crouch
Peter Crouch had to fight hard to squeak past Emile Heskey in a battle of 8 v. 9 while Robbie Fowler waltzed past the unfortunate Joe Cole, who did about as well in his first round pairing as he did in his time at the club. While Crouch may have his fans, it's difficult to imagine that the ultimate loyalties of most won't be with the man known as "God" to Liverpool supporters.
4. Gary McAllister v. 5. Rob Jones
Both four-seed McAllister and five-seed Jones had relatively tough slogs, collecting around 80% of the vote against first round opponents many would have assumed they would waltz past when the tournament started. Now it's Gary Mac's free kicks and brief but glorious chapter as a Liverpool player versus Jones' defensive solidity that in the end was undone by a string of unfortunate injuries.
3. Dietmar Hamann v. 6. Danny Murphy
Murphy had to fight off a late push by 11-seed Steve Finnan to advance, and that could signal doom for the early 00s midfielder in the Round of 32. Hamann, meanwhile, not only registered the most convincing first round victory in the Evans Region—the 98.98% of the vote he captured was the most convincing victory in any first round matchup. Few will expect the immensely popular Didi Man to now slip up against the game but underdog Murphy.
2. Jamie Carragher v. 10. Yossi Benayoun
Ten-seed and fan favourite Benanyoun overcame the resume of seven-seed Markus Babbel to spark the upset and advance, but his only reward is to face off against Jamie Carragher. For all the Israeli utility man's personal appeal, a second upset—this time against a local legend who has spent his entire career at Liverpool—seems rather unlikely.