Liverpool and Man United square up in a huge Europa League round 16 tie on Thursday.
These sides are some way off their all-conquering teams of the past, upon which this rivalry was established, as they both sit outside the top-five in the Premier League and potentially eying this as their best route to getting into next season’s Champions League. Liverpool certainly enter this fixture in better form as they followed a 3-0 home win over Man City with a 2-1 win at Palace thanks to a last gasp penalty, whilst Man Utd were perhaps fortunate to get past Watford and then were beaten at West Brom on the weekend.
Liverpool’s Europa League home record since 2009/10 is an impressive W12-D5-L1 as Udinese are the only team to have won at Anfield in this time. We have Man Utd ranked 21st in Europe and Liverpool’s home record in European competition against sides between 11th and 31st since 2006/07 is W6-D2-L1 but there are only two matches in that sample since the start of 2010/11 and we’ve not had them ranked this lowly in our European rankings for 15 years. More significantly, in their 16 European matches since the start of last season they’ve scored only 13 goals and 10 of the last 11 have had fewer than three goals.
Man Utd’s European away record (excluding play-off matches) in the post-Ferguson era is W1-D3-L5 with those five defeats coming in their last six road trips. This is the lowest ranking we have for United in Europe in 26 years, which just highlights how far both teams have fallen. However, they do have a 100% record against Liverpool under Louis van Gaal. Perhaps predictably given both teams general performances over the past year both meetings this season have been goalless at half-time and largely uninspiring matches.
United’s away form is only the 12th best in the Premier League this season as they’ve managed only five wins in 15 games and have lost their last two on the road at Sunderland and West Brom. There have been 10 Europa League Last 16 first legs in the past 11 seasons where the away side has been ranked 11-25 places in our gradings but despite being the better side they’ve lost seven of the matches. Perhaps more significantly though is that both teams scored in just one of the matches as seven had fewer than two goals and 10 fewer than three.
United’s only win in their last eight league road games did come at Anfield, however, United have several injury concerns at the moment while Lingard is also suspended. With 65% of the 88 Europa League Last 16 first legs in the past 11 seasons seeing fewer than three goals and two teams that are some way below their best this looks set to be a low scoring affair. Liverpool have been boosted by the returns of Sturridge and Coutinho, both of whom should be raring to go for this one after being left on the bench at Palace, but we still expect a nervy opening 45.
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