Jürgen Klopp claimed he wanted to draw Manchester United in the last 16 of the Europa League as Liverpool need to “clear something” after two defeats to Louis van Gaal’s team this season.
England’s most successful clubs were pitted against each other for the first time in European competition on Friday, with the mouthwatering ties taking place at Anfield on 10 March and Old Trafford a week later. The first leg will kick-off at 8.05pm, the second at 6pm. Van Gaal has never lost against Liverpool, winning all four Premier League games as United manager including a 3-1 win at home to Brendan Rodgers’ team in September and last month’s 1-0 win on Merseyside.
Wayne Rooney’s 78th-minute winner at Anfield effectively ended Liverpool’s hopes of Champions League qualification and left Klopp wanting redress. Having predicated a meeting of the fierce north west rivals before Liverpool overcame Augsburg in the last 32, the Liverpool manager believes that opportunity has arrived in Europe.
“It’s great,” Klopp said. “We deserve these games. It is not easy but you can ask my staff. They asked me yesterday who do we want and I said Manchester United. I think we have to clear something. We had a good game when I was here but we lost 1-0. That was not what we deserved that day but we got it. Life has given us a chance to make it better and that is what we have to do and will try to do. In this round there was no easy game. Manchester United, cool.”
United have the advantage of the second leg on home soil but face a demanding fixture schedule compared to Liverpool. Van Gaal’s side host West Ham United in the FA Cup quarter-finals between the Europa League ties – when Liverpool will have a free weekend having been knocked out of the competition by Slaven Bilic’s team – and have the Manchester derby at the Etihad Stadium three days after the second leg.
Tottenham Hotspur’s reward for a comprehensive defeat of Fiorentina is a meeting with tournament favourites Borussia Dortmund. Mauricio Pochettino’s team will be at White Hart Lane for the second leg against the second-placed side in the Bundesliga. Gary Neville also faces a difficult task to reach the quarter-finals after Valencia landed an all-Spanish affair against Athletic Bilbao.
Other ties feature Shakhtar Donetsk against Anderlecht, Basel v Sevilla, who are looking to win this competition for the third year running, and Villarreal v Bayer Leverkusen.