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Published: 10:02 | 9/3/16

Valencia could return against Reds


Antonio Valencia could be named on the bench for Manchester United's Europa League last-16 first-leg tie against Liverpool on Thursday.

Valencia has been sidelined with a foot injury since October but is back training with the squad and is in line to make his return when United make the trip to Anfield.

Bastian Schweinsteiger has also returned to training but manager Louis van Gaal is unlikely to risk the German against the Reds.

"Antonio Valencia and Bastian Schweinsteiger are coming back. I think a lot of players shall come back in the month of March. But when they come back, it is not so easy to decide if they can cope with the rhythm of a match because they are fit to train with us," Van Gaal told his pre-match press conference.

"For example, Schweinsteiger has only had one training session with us behind his back. Valencia has a week [behind him] so he is much closer to being on the bench, for example, but not to play a match as that's different.

"I don’t think (any new players will be available) but Valencia is fit enough to be on the bench, but to play 90 minutes, I don’t think so.

"I shall always make my line-up in my eyes as the strongest line-up to play against the opponent. Nevertheless, I put youngsters sometimes in the line-up but then I think it's the best solution. I also have to cope with the busy schedule so sometimes I spare and rotate players because of that."

United dropped into the Europa League after failing to progress from their Champions League group that featured Wolfsburg, PSV Eindhoven and CSKA Moscow, but Van Gaal does not believe it is an indication of how far the team have fallen.

"Other teams are playing in the Champions League. You are talking about Manchester United and Liverpool, we are happy to play in the Europa League,” he said.

"But Manchester City, Arsenal and Chelsea are still playing in the Champions League. So six clubs are in Europe (also including Tottenham in the Europa League) and you have to be proud of that.

"But in football it is normal. It is not normal that one team dominates for 20 years in a row as the champion."

Liverpool v Manchester United is live on Setanta Ireland

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