Earlier today we kicked off the Round of 32 in our Liverpool-themed take on March Madness with voting in the Houllier and Evans regions. Now it's time for the second half of the second round with the Benitez and Dalglish regions joining the party and some intriguing pairings like Luis Suarez vs. Daniel Agger, Lucas Leiva vs. Jan Molby, and Javier Mascherano vs. Fernando Torres.
For a brief recap of each player's achievements, head back to first round action in the Benitez and Dalglish regions, and for the full bracket click on over to Oh You Beauty. Round of 32 voting will remain open until 12 midnight GMT/7PM EST on Tuesday.
1. Ian Rush v. 8. Craig Bellamy
Fan favourite though he may be, few will expect Bellamy to topple Rush in a battle of Welsh attackers. The only real case for Bellamy to manage a seemingly unlikely upset would be that most of Rush's best years at the club came before the Premier League came into existence—and in the first year of the EPL, Rush round himself dropped from the first eleven. However, two strong seasons followed for Rush before the arrival of Stan Collymore signalled the end of his Liverpool career.
4. Luis Suarez v. 5. Daniel Agger
Few would argue that Luis Suarez is, at present, Liverpool's best player. There's a case to be made that he's the most talented striker Liverpool have had in the Premier League era. Daniel Agger, meanwhile, has spent seven seasons at the club and for many of those has been the club's best centre half. Suarez is the superstar; Agger has the intangibles of proven loyalty and an outspoken honesty rare amongst professional football players. For many, this will be the toughest matchup of the round.
3. Fernando Torres v. 6. Javier Mascherano
Another tough pairing pits a man who at his best seemed the proverbial unstoppable force against a tireless immoveable object. Both left the club in controversial circumstances, Torres in the final minutes of January for a massive fee while Mascherano gave the club more time but forced a move for relative peanuts. During their time at Liverpool, most would have given Torres the edge, but despite that both left in less than ideal circumstances opinions have since grown far more negative regarding the Spanish striker than the Argentinean destroyer.
2. Michael Owen v. 7. Dirk Kuyt
Like Torres, Owen at one time would have waltzed past Kuyt. Based on his resume, he likely should at least be a solid favourite against the tireless Dutch workhorse. Also like Torres, though, Owen finds himself out of favour amongst Liverpool supporters—so much so that his stellar resume almost wasn't enough to make it past 15-seed Neil Ruddock in the first round. Kuyt, meanwhile, has a far, far stronger case than Owen's last opponent, and that along with a strong anti-Owen vote could spell doom for Benitez region's second seed.
1. John Barnes v. 8. Glen Johnson
John Barnes's glory days may have mostly come before the Premier League existed, but he still spent five seasons at the club once it did, mostly playing in midfield and being named captain in 1995. As such, he likely has the strongest Premier League era resume amongst Liverpool players in the competition who mostly made their names before it was formed. At first glance at least, it suggests a tough fight for Johnson if he hopes to overcome Dalglish region's top seed.
4. Steve Nicol v. 5. Ronnie Whelan
A pairing of names whose best seasons came from before the formation of the Premier League sees Nicol pitted against Whelan. Both made more than 400 career appearances for Liverpool, but with less than a hundred coming in the 1992-93 season and beyond. Nicol remained a key player for Liverpool until 1994, while Whelan at times struggled through injuries. Both soon left to join lower league sides as player-manager.
3. Jan Molby v. 6. Lucas Leiva
There's really only one question: How much weight does one give a player for achievements before the Premier League came into existence? Though some might hope Lucas will one day achieve a similar standing to Molby over his entire career, at present Molby's career resume as a midfield playmaker is unmatched—perhaps by anyone in the competition. However, Molby only played 32 games from 1992-93 onward, and so based only on importance to the club since the formation of the EPL the contest seems similarly unbalanced—only this time in Lucas' favour.
2. Steve McManaman v. 7. Jerzy Dudek
The hero of Istanbul crushed Harry Kewell to make it to the second round, but few will see him making it past McManaman. Following Barnes' move inside, McManaman became Liverpool's deadly winger throughout the 90s, and though he eventually left the club while still a top performer, there is far less lingering antipathy towards him than the likes of Owen or Torres. McManaman will now expect to advance to the Round of 16; Dudek, meanwhile, will be happy just to have made it this far.
Liverpool March Madness:
Round of 32—Houllier and Evans Regions