Sunday 8 December 2019

'I wanted Man Utd'- Liverpool boss Klopp 'cool' with Europa League draw

Jurgen Klopp
Jurgen Klopp

Mark Bryans

Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp says facing Manchester United in the last 16 of the Europa League was the "cool" tie he wanted.

Long-term adversaries United and Liverpool will go head to head for the first time in continental competition with a place in the quarter-finals at stake, with the tournament winners qualifying for next season's Champions League.

Both are currently outside the Barclays Premier League's top four so Europa League success could be their best chance of returning to Europe's premier club competition next season.

Liverpool, who are preparing for the Capital One Cup final against Manchester City on Sunday, edged past German side Augsburg in the round of 32, with James Milner's early penalty at Anfield on Thursday the only goal across both legs.

The Reds have lost home and away to United in the league this season but Klopp insisted it was the draw he had been hoping for.

He said: "Obviously it is not easy. But you can ask my staff, when they asked me yesterday 'who do you want?' I said 'Manchester United."It's great. We deserve these games, with the game yesterday. I think we have to clear something.

"We had a good game when I was here when we played against them, but we lost 1-0. It was not what we deserved on that day, but we got it. Life gives us the chance to make it better and that's what we have to do, and what we'll try.

"In this round, there were no easy games so we had no chance for an easy game. So we have Manchester United - cool."

United eventually eased through their tie against FC Midtjylland, having lost the initial leg in Denmark 2-1 last week. They fell behind at Old Trafford on Thursday before scoring five, including a brace for debutant Marcus Rashford, to advance 6-3 on aggregate.

The Red Devils have lost just one of their nine meetings with English sides in European competition but have yet to come up against Liverpool.

The first leg will take place at Anfield on March 10 with an 8.05pm kick-off, with the second leg at Old Trafford getting under way at 6pm on March 17. Tottenham, the third Premier League side in the round of 16, face a tough test when they take on Klopp's former club Borussia Dortmund.

Mauricio Pochettino's Spurs impressed with a 3-0 win over Fiorentina at White Hart Lane on Thursday to secure a 4-1 aggregate success, having lost to the same opposition at the round of 32 stage a year ago.

They will travel to Germany for the first leg in the week following their Premier League north London derby at home to Arsenal. Elsewhere in the draw, Gary Neville's Valencia face an all-Spanish tie against Athletic Bilbao.

Neville appears to have turned a corner at Valencia after struggling in his early time in charge at the Mestalla, and they face Primera Division rivals Bilbao after a hefty 10-0 aggregate win over Rapid Vienna in the previous round. Meanwhile, holders Sevilla travel to Basle - the venue of this year's final - looking for a place in the last eight.

Two previous winners clash as Shakhtar Donetsk come up against Anderlecht while Villarreal will meet Bayer Leverkusen and Sparta Prague face Lazio.

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