Sky pundit says Benteke in line for shock start against Manchester United

By Coral Barry

Charlie Nicholas believes Christian Benteke could get the chance to start against Manchester United in the Europa League on Thursday.

Benteke came on as a substitute over the weekend to win and convert a 95th minute penalty to secure 10-man Liverpool a 2-1 win over Crystal Palace.

Nicholas is convinced that Benteke could force star striker Daniel Sturridge and his deputy Divock Origi out of the team, despite a grim few months on the fringes of the team for the former Aston Villa man.

“Most will be expecting Daniel Sturridge to come back in, but you never know what condition he’s in,” said Nicholas speaking in his Sky Sports column.

“Christian Benteke should be the one banging on Jurgen Klopp’s door demanding the chance to play against this United defence.

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“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.”

Benteke has made just 12 league starts this season and has fallen behind 20-year-old Origi in the striking pecking order since Jurgen Klopp took over in October.

Mixed bag: Nicholas says you never know what you are going to get with injury prone Dan

The Belgian, who moved from Villa for £32.5million last summer, has not started a Premier League match for Liverpool since the 2-0 defeat to West Ham on 2 January.

The last 16 showdown on Thursday is the first time United and Liverpool will meet in the Europa League.

Louis Van Gaal has yet to lose a game against the Reds since becoming United manager in 2014.

In other Liverpool news, Klopp is weighing up which of his big guns to bring back against United.