The two biggest teams in English football lock heads once again in the European club competition when Manchester United go to Anfield to play Liverpool.
The teams were drawn out of the pot to face each other in the Round of 16, in the race to compete in the competition where there are only three English sides remaining. The rivalry will once again commence as both seem to have a historical record in Europe and have been the biggest teams with UEFA Champions League trophies. However, it has been a long time since there has been an England v England fixture in the UEFA Cup/ Europa League since April 1973.
Louis Van Gaal’s United were fortunate to overcome Danish side FC Midtjylland where Memphis was the star of the show then. United have the upper hand as this is the away leg in the first of two games. So an away goal would be crucial to take back at Old Trafford. Based on the performance in the last Europa League game, United would be comfortable against Liverpool. Although, the result against West Brom in the league would be a setback but the players will need to move on quickly and step up against arch rivals.
Klopp will be delighted to play United and give the Liverpool fans something to cheer about if they become victorious over the two legs. It has not been the season for Liverpool in the league but they are still in the Europa League. Both teams have the chance to qualify for the Champions League if they win the competition.
Lingard is suspended as he was booked in both games in Round of 32. Januzaj is cup-tied and Fosu-Mensah is ineligible. Valencia could make his first appearance since October as he returns back to action. Rooney, Young, Keane and Shaw are absent whereas Schweinsteiger and Jones are returning back to fitness. Sturridge could start and Origi is likely to be dropped. Clyne will return to the starting line-up.
Mata got sent off against West Brom and this led to a defeat where the team had to keep it at 1-0. It is likely he will be involved in the Europa League games as he serves his one match ban domestically. With some players missing for the fixture, Van Gaal will need to decide to use Rashford in attack and who he decides to replace Lingard’s place. Memphis could get a start where he was very impressive against Midtjylland at Old Trafford where he was comfortable and showing his best qualities. Van Gaal could use a 4-3-3 formation with Herrera, Carrick and Schneiderlin in midfield and using Mata, Memphis and Martial in attack. The key is to have Darmian and Rojo available as full backs where it looks like players are returning at a time when United need to put together a string of performances.
Form does not prove anything when it comes to Liverpool v Man United. The occasion usually gets the most out of the players and anything can happen. If Van Gaal gains another win, he will be the first United manager in history to win five consecutive games against Liverpool. There is expectation for a very lively and feisty game to watch and the European night will make it a special atmosphere to be in.
Possible starting XI:
Liverpool; Mignolet, Clyne, Lovren, Sakho, Moreno, Coutinho, Henderson, Can, Lallana, Firmino, Sturridge.
Man Utd; De Gea, Darmian, Smalling, Blind, Rojo, Carrick, Schneiderlin, Herrera, Mata, Memphis, Martial.