Liverpool v Manchester United preview: Daniel Sturridge could return
By Jack Wilkinson
Last Updated: 10/03/16 8:06pm
Daniel Sturridge is likely to return to Liverpool's starting line-up for their Europa League clash with Manchester United on Thursday.
The England international has been rested for the last two matches but is set to lead the line in the first European encounter between English football's most decorated sides.
Louis van Gaal, meanwhile, heads to Merseyside looking to become the first United manager in history to win five consecutive games against Liverpool.
The Dutchman extended his record against the Reds to four wins with a 1-0 Premier League victory at Anfield in January, although he will have to do without that game's match winner, Wayne Rooney, who remains out injured.
With Champions League qualification up for grabs for the winner of this season's competition, this game has taken on added significance as both sides vie for a place in the last eight.
Divock Origi is likely to drop out of Jurgen Klopp's starting line-up to make way for Sturridge.
Right-back Nathaniel Clyne will return at the expense of Jon Flanagan, who is ineligible having not been registered for the Europa prior to his return to fitness, while there is a doubt over midfielder James Milner after he was sent home from training with illness.
Jesse Lingard will miss United's trip to Anfield through suspension. The winger, who was booked in both legs of United's Round of 32 victory over FC Midtjylland. He will, however, be available for next Thursday's return at Old Trafford.
Adnan Januzaj is cup-tied having appeared for Borussia Dortmund in the competition while on loan earlier in the season and Timothy Fosu-Mensah in ineligible.
Antonio Valencia could make his first United appearance since October's goalless draw with Manchester City after recovering from a foot injury.
Rooney, Ashley Young, Will Keane and Luke Shaw remain absent, while Bastian Schweinsteiger and Phil Jones are stepping up their returns to fitness.
Liverpool v Man Utd is the first England v England clash in the UEFA Cup/Europa League since Liverpool v Spurs in April 1973.
Man Utd have lost just one of their nine meetings with English sides in European competition (W6 D2).
Liverpool have lost their last four matches against Manchester United - they've never lost five in a row in all competitions to their North West rivals.
Manchester United haven't won any of their last five away knockout games in European competition, losing four times (D1).
Liverpool have reached the last 16 of a European competition for the first time since the 2010/11 season when they did so in the Europa League.
Juan Mata has been involved in eight goals in his last eight games against Liverpool in all competitions (three goals and five assists).
James Milner has scored a penalty in each of his last two Europa League appearances at Anfield for Liverpool.
It's very difficult to know what's going to happen in this meeting between old rivals Liverpool and Manchester United.
It was a strange performance against Crystal Palace, but Liverpool got the result which gives them the momentum going into the match. Whereas United's top-four hopes took a huge hit in losing at West Bromwich Albion, meaning they both need to win this competition even more.
Most will be expecting Sturridge to come back in, but you never know what condition he's in. Christian Benteke should be the one banging on Jurgen Klopp's door demanding the chance to play against this United defence.
He's just scored a big goal which could be the corner turned. The way he took that penalty tells me he's up to the challenge of proving he can still make a big contribution.
Charlie predicts: 2-0 to Liverpool and Christian Benteke to score first (33/1 with Sky Bet)
Liverpool are Sky Bet's even-money favourites to take a lead in next week's second leg, United are 3/1 to win on the night and 9/4 to hold their rivals to a draw. There's little between the sides in the 'To Qualify' market, with both sides priced at 5/6. The Soccer Saturday pundits and Jamie Redknapp are backing the host to win in their Sky Bet tips, including Matt Le Tissier's 33/1 fancy for Roberto Firmino to score first in a 2-0 win. Find all of the pundits' tips here.