Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp has described tonight’s Europa League last-16 tie with Manchester United as “the mother of all football games” and it’s difficult to argue.
Though Manchester United are still in the FA Cup, the Europa League looks set to be the best chance for both to win silverware this term.
Louis van Gaal needs a victory here and to continue in the competition to have any chance of saving his job while Klopp, being afforded time to turn an ailing club around, needs to starting showing signs of progress.
Both have a rich history in European competition, Liverpool having won the Champions League five times to Manchester United’s three.
But this is the first time the two giants of English football have met in European competition and Klopp is relishing the occasion.
“I always said the Europa League is very exciting,” said the German, whose former employers Borussia Dortmund host Tottenham Hotspur elsewhere in the competition tonight.
“It’s really, really big. I hope it’s not the biggest [match] in my Liverpool career but it’s very important.
“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.”
Omni-injured Daniel Sturridge is seemingly available to lead the line, while full-back Jon Flanagan is set to drop out of the team having not been registered to play in the Europa League. Nathaniel Clyne is set to take his place.
James Milner missed training on Wednesday with illness and the England midfielder remains doubtful.
United boss Van Gaal has a host of injury problems to contend with, while Jesse Lingard is suspended and Adnan Januzaj is cup-tied.
But rather than add spice to the occasion, the beleaguered Dutchman, who has won four from four against Liverpool during his tenure at Old Trafford, has attempted to take the sting out of the tie.
“Several people think they are the enemy but I’m not thinking like that,” van Gaal said.
“They are an opponent. A lot of fans want to beat the opponent. That’s it.”