Thursday, 10 March 2016

Liverpool v Manchester United - Preview

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Jurgen Klopp has called Thursday's Europa League last-16 tie against Manchester United "the mother of all football games".

The Reds host United in the domestic rivals' first meeting in Europe, though it is in the second-tier competition rather than the Champions League.

However, Klopp said: "I always said the Europa League is very exciting.

"It's really, really big. I hope it's not the biggest [match] in my Liverpool career but it's very important."

Manchester United have won three European Cups - most recently in 2008 in its current Champions League format - while Liverpool have lifted the trophy on five occasions.

United manager Louis van Gaal said those who criticise their demotion to the Europa League are "living in the past", and Klopp believes the tie will still enthral the crowd at Anfield.

"I don't believe in enemies in football, I believe in real opponents," said the 48-year-old German, who took former club Borussia Dortmund to the Champions League final in 2013.

"I have absolutely no problem with Louis van Gaal but the last thing I want is for him to win. Games like this are the mother of all football games."

Liverpool have won the Uefa Cup - precursor to the Europa League - three times, most recently in 2001, while United's best run was to the quarter-finals in 1985.

The winners of the competition qualify for the Champions League and Klopp defender the standard of the tournament.

"What's Champions League level? I saw a lot of rubbish games at Champions League level. Liverpool and Manchester United want to always be part of it, sure.

"There's a long way to go but we can see the line. There's only top quality teams left in this tournament. From now on its something like a small Champions League."

Striker Daniel Sturridge is likely to return to Liverpool's starting line-up and right-back Nathaniel Clyne will return at the expense of Jon Flanagan, who is not registered to play in the Europa League.

Midfielder James Milner is doubtful after he was sent home from training with illness.

Jesse Lingard is suspended for Manchester United and fellow winger Adnan Januzaj is cup-tied, but Antonio Valencia is set to be involved after a foot injury.

Wayne Rooney, Ashley Young, Will Keane, Luke Shaw, Bastian Schweinsteiger and Phil Jones are all still out.

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