EUROPA LEAGUE

The 'madre' of all games

From De Gea to Moreno and ref Velasco Carballo, tonight's all-Premier League clash between Liverpool and Man Utd is not short on Spanish representation

The 'madre' of all games
Carl Recine REUTERS

When the draw for the Europa League last 16 was made in February, the all-LaLiga clash between Athletic Club and Gary Neville's Valencia unsurprisingly dominated the attention in Spain.

However, there was also no shortage of interest in the country in the round's other stand-out pairing: the Premier League-only meeting of bitter rivals Liverpool and Manchester United.

Not least because there will be a notable Spanish influence on proceedings as the two historic English sides, who boast 38 domestic league titles between them and face off in Europe for the first time ever, take to the field for the opening leg at Anfield.

In goal for United will be keeper David de Gea, who has flourished into one of the globe's top keepers since moving to Old Trafford in 2011.

His sparkling campaign last term led him to be chosen as the club's player of the year by both fans and team-mates and, had it not been for a spot of tardy paperwork, would also have yielded a transfer to LaLiga giants Real Madrid.

De Gea's compatriot Juan Mata, meanwhile, will be looking to atone for his less than stellar contribution to the weekend league defeat to West Brom, when the ex-Valencia and Chelsea man was given his marching orders for two quick first-half yellows .

His involvement in eight goals in his last eight games in all competitions against Liverpool would appear to bode well in that regard.

The Red Devils' Basque midfielder Ander Herrera, recruited from Athletic Club in the summer of 2014, has been named on the bench by United boss Louis Van Gaal - a manager who, it has been observed, has shown a "baffling reticence to include him more regularly in the starting XI".

Looking ahead to the tie, Herrera told United's official website: "Since I have been at Manchester United, we have faced them and always won, so hopefully we can keep that run. I can imagine what the atmosphere will be like. It’s going to be great."

Meanwhile, at left-back for Liverpool is Alberto Moreno. Signed from Sevilla two summers ago, the left-back has recovered from a difficult start to the season to be almost ever-present under Jürgen Klopp.

But beware: in a recent fans' vote in the newapaper the Liverpool Echo, Moreno was among the players nominated by the supporters for a close-season departure from the club.

And the man in the middle for the first leg? Carlos Velasco Carballo of Madrid.