Man United and Liverpool, English footballs most successful clubs and bitter rivals, clash in Europe for the first time tonight at Anfield. Astonishing considering that these teams have faced each other 194 times in their history and both have major successes in Europe. One would expect that they would have met at some point on the European stage. This promises to be a mouthwatering clash with Liverpool having a 48 percent win ratio of the games played between the teams on Merseyside
Jürgen Klopp is bursting at the seams with excitement and has called Thursday’s Europa League last-16 tie against Manchester United “the mother of all football games”. In what has been dubbed the revenge week for Liverpool after they took down Manchester City who beat them in the League Cup final and then Crystal Palace, victors at Anfield in November, Klopp’s men are looking to continue their resurgence under the German. In squad news, Daniel Sturridge should start after not having featured in the last two games while James Milner is a doubt having picked up a virus. John Flanagan is ineligible due to not having been named in Liverpool’s initial Europa League squad which should see Nathaniel Clyne slotting in at right back.
United have beaten Liverpool in each of their last five fixtures and will be hoping to make it a sixth win on the bounce. The injury ravaged United are boosted by news that Antonio Valencia is fit enough to play some part in tonight’s game but the clash comes too soon for Bastian Schweinsteiger who has returned to training but the tie comes too soon for the former Bayern Munich star. Coach Louis Van Gaal speaking at the pre-match press briefing, has once again drew criticism by saying, “You are talking about Manchester United and Liverpool and I can say we are happy to play in the Europa League” he further went on to say “”It was another time. You live in the past, It happens in football. It’s normal” when speaking of why the club find themselves in the Europa league and not in the top tier of Champions league football that fans are used to.
The fact that Manchester United and Liverpool now share this battleground instead of Europe’s elite competition is arguably the biggest talking point in the grand scheme of things. These two giants of English football have become shadows of their former selves and should be concerned at the state they are in. The clubs truly have fallen from grace and both will be looking to win the Europa League as the back door entrance seems the most likely route back to the Champions League with hopes of automatic qualification through league standings quickly fading. This promises to be a blockbuster encounter as the clubs add a European chapter to their long and exciting rivalry.