Man United-Liverpool rivalry transfers to Europa League
ABS-CBN Sports on Feb 27, 2016 06:37 AM
Unitedís Ander Herrera celebrates after scoring during the Europa League round of 32 second leg soccer match between Manchester United and FC Midtjylland in Manchester, England, Thursday, Feb. 25, 2016 . (AP Photo/Jon Super)
STEVE DOUGLAS, AP Sports Writer
The most high-profile rivalry in English soccer will be played out in European competition for the first time after Manchester United and Liverpool were drawn against each other in the Europa League on Friday.
"You can ask my staff — when they asked me yesterday, 'Who do you want?' I said 'Manchester United,'" Liverpool manager Juergen Klopp said, after putting both of his thumbs up to signal his delight at the last 16 draw.
United and Liverpool are most successful teams in England, winning a combined 38 English league titles, and have been European champions eight times between them.
They have fallen on harder times in recent seasons, though, and are no longer certainties to be competing in the Champions League — Europe's top competition. In this season's Premier League, United is fifth and Liverpool is eighth, and winning the Europa League is likely the best chance of returning to the Champions League for next season.
The first meeting in the Europa League will be at Anfield in Liverpool on March 10, with the return match seven days later at Old Trafford.
"It's great. We deserve these games. I think we have to clear something," said Klopp, whose team has lost home and away to United in the Premier League this season.
Arguably the strongest ever field for the last 16 of the Europa League threw up a number of other eye-catching matches, including Borussia Dortmund against Premier League title challenger Tottenham and an all-Spanish contest between Valencia and Athletic Bilbao.
Defending Europa League champion Sevilla — seeking a record third straight title — will meet Swiss team FC Basel, whose stadium, St. Jakob-Park, is also the venue for the final in May.
The other matches are Shakhtar Donetsk against Anderlecht, Villarreal against Bayer Leverkusen, Sparta Prague against Lazio, and Fenerbahce against Braga.