LONDON • Juergen Klopp on Thursday made light of Liverpool's lack of prolificacy in front of goal against Augsburg, suggesting that his men were saving the goals for tomorrow's League Cup final.
James Milner's early spot-kick at Anfield was enough to give the Reds a 1-0 aggregate victory in the Europa League last-32 tie.
Crucially, it ensured that the two most successful teams in English history will meet in European competition for the first time, after Liverpool were yesterday drawn to face long-time rivals Manchester United in the next round.
The plum tie of the round will see United, who have never won the competition, head to Anfield on March 10, before hosting the Reds at Old Trafford a week later.
Three-time winners Liverpool had 24 efforts at goal on Thursday, with Daniel Sturridge and Jordan Henderson wasting the best of the opportunities. Collectively, the hosts hit the target six times.
Draw for the Europa League round-of-16: Shakhtar Donetsk (Ukr) v Anderlecht (Bel)
Basel (Sui) v Sevilla (Esp)
Villarreal (Esp) v Bayer Leverkusen (Ger)
Athletic Bilbao (Esp) v Valencia (Esp)
Liverpool (Eng) v Manchester United (Eng)
Sparta Prague (Cze) v Lazio (Ita)
Borussia Dortmund (Ger) v Tottenham Hotspur (Eng)
Fenerbahce (Tur) v Braga (Por)
Games will be played on March 10 and March 17.
"We keep them for the (League Cup) final," Klopp joked. "It's good preparation for the final now we know our way to goal!
"I'm not frustrated, football is like this. You have to create chances and we have the quality to score goals, everybody could see this."
Yet it was not a performance that will trouble Manchester City before their Wembley meeting on Sunday.
Whereas Manuel Pellegrini's side head into the title decider on the back of arguably their most convincing display of the season, a 3-1 win away to Dynamo Kiev in the Champions League, Liverpool have only two days to address the issues that emerged in a laboured, narrow victory over two legs against a team ranked 13th in the Bundesliga.
Had a 90th-minute free kick from Kostas Stafylidis drifted inside the post instead of marginally outside, Klopp would be getting ready for his biggest game since taking over as manager with his preparations undermined by recriminations.
There was no such tension for Gary Neville's Valencia, whose recent upturn in form continued with a 4-0 win at Rapid Vienna to complete a 10-0 aggregate success.
It was the Spanish Primera Liga side's fourth consecutive victory in all competitions.
Tottenham Hotspur also progressed to the last 16, with manager Mauricio Pochettino believing his squad have enough strength in depth to compete for both domestic and continental honours.
Spurs advanced 4-1 on aggregate following an impressive 3-0 second-leg win over Italian side Fiorentina and are second in the Premier League, two points behind leaders Leicester City with 12 games left.
REUTERS, THE TIMES, LONDON