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USMNT Champions League/Europa League Knockout Stage Preview

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What do we have to look forward to in the knockout stages of European competition?

Chelsea FC v Lille OSC: Group H - UEFA Champions League Photo by Ricardo Nogueira/Eurasia Sport Images/Getty Images

It’s time for the knockout stages of the UEFA Champions League and the UEFA Europa League to kick off. Several Americans will feature as their clubs look to hold silverware at the end of the competitions. Let’s take a look at who and what to look forward to in the competition from an American perspective:

Champions League

Christian Pulisic (Attacking Midfielder, Chelsea FC)

Pulisic is a veteran of this competition, having already featured twice in the knockout stage of the Champions League. This year, he was a regular towards the end of the group stage as Chelsea hung on to advance to the knockout round by finishing second in Group H. Last year, Chelsea won the Europa League, but they will have their sights set higher this campaign. However, Chelsea face a very difficult task to get to the quarterfinals as they drew Bayern Munich. The 21-year-old faces a race against the clock to be ready for the first leg next Tuesday at Stamford Bridge. He hasn’t played since January 1st and Chelsea has struggled a bit while he’s been out. Hopefully he’ll be able to get back to help them get past the German giants.

1st Leg: Chelsea vs. Bayern Munich, 3 PM ET on Tuesday, February 25th (TNT, B/R Live, Galavision, Univision NOW)

2nd Leg: Bayern Munich vs. Chelsea, 4 PM ET on Wednesday, March 18th (B/R Live)

Tyler Adams (Central Midfielder, RB Leipzig)

Adams is still looking for his debut in the Champions League after missing the entire group stage through injury. The 21-year-old unfortunately will have to wait even longer as he has been ruled out for their opening leg of the knockout stage. Despite the absence of Tyler Adams, Leipzig still won Group G and advanced to the knockout round for the first time in the club’s history. They have been drawn against Tottenham and will travel to London to take on the EPL side on Wednesday. Adams will look to get his first chance in Leipzig’s home leg on March 10th. Hopefully he will be healthy by then.

1st Leg: Tottenham vs. RB Leipzig, 3 PM ET on Wednesday, February 19th (B/R Live, TUDN)

2nd Leg: RB Leipzig vs. Tottenham, 4 PM ET on Tuesday, March 10th (B/R Live, TUDN)

Giovanni Reyna (Attacking Midfielder, Borussia Dortmund)

2020 has been very good to Gio Reyna, and he will look to keep up that momentum in the game’s biggest competition. Reyna was included in Dortmund’s Champions League roster for the group stage, but he didn’t get his professional debut until January. So he will be hoping that his number will be called in the knockout round. Borussia Dortmund also drew a difficult matchup with French champion Paris St. Germain. PSG hasn’t been able to get past this round in recent years despite elite talent. However, Dortmund has also experienced their own issues at this stage. Reyna may well get some opportunities, particularly when you consider their injury concerns. Marco Reus and Julian Brandt are on the shelf, so Reyna could see his debut in European competition as early as their first match on Tuesday.

1st Leg: Dortmund vs. PSG, 3 PM ET on Tuesday, February 18th (B/R Live, Galavision)

2nd Leg: PSG vs. Dortmund, 4 PM ET on Wednesday, March 11th (B/R Live, TUDN)

Europa League

Sergiño Dest (Fullback, AFC Ajax)

Dest and Ajax certainly didn’t want to be listed in this portion of the article. A loss to Valencia on the final match day of the Champions League group stage knocked them down to third place in the group and out of the competition. As a consolation, they did qualify for the knockout stage of the Europa League. In the round of 32, Ajax have been drawn against another La Liga opponent in Getafe. Ajax will look to exact a bit of revenge and advance to the round of 16. Dest featured more than any American in the Champions League group stage and has been playing regularly for Ajax all season. In recent weeks, he has regained his starting spot and has displayed improved defensive positioning to compliment his excellent attacking prowess. Hopefully they have a long journey ahead of them. Please note that Alex Mendez is also eligible for selection, but he is still waiting to make his first team debut.

1st Leg: Getafe vs. Ajax, 12:55 PM ET on Thursday, February 20th (B/R Live, TUDNxtra)

2nd Leg: Ajax vs. Getafe, 3 PM ET on Thursday, February 27th (B/R Live, TUDNxtra)

John Brooks (Centerback, VFL Wolfsburg)

John Brooks was back in the lineup this past weekend following a spell on the bench. The 27-year-old will look to remain in the lineup as they turn their focus to the Europa League. Wolfsburg came in second place behind KAA Gent in Group I, but they still drew a favorable matchup in the knockout round. Brooks will look to shut down the Malmö attack and get them to the round of 16. Please note that UIysses Llanez was also listed in the Europa League squad, so he could feature as well. He has yet to even make a matchday squad for them though, so it seems very unlikely.

1st Leg: Wolfsburg vs. Malmö, 3 PM ET on Thursday, February 20th (B/R Live, TUDNxtra)

2nd Leg: Malmö vs. Wolfsburg, 12:55 PM ET on Thursday, February 27th (B/R Live, TUDNxtra)

Timothy Chandler (Fullback/Winger, Eintracht Frankfurt)

Chandler has been the most prolific American player in 2020. After only playing sparingly in the fall, including three brief cameos in their Europa League group stage, the 29-year-old has regained his spot in Frankfurt’s starting lineup and figures to feature prominently in the knockout stage. Now being used further up the field, Chandler has four goals in his last five league games. Frankfurt qualified for the knockout phase by finishing second in their group behind Arsenal. The matchup with Jesse Marsch and RB Salzburg will be one of the most interesting ones from an American perspective.

1st Leg: Frankfurt vs. Salzburg, 12:55 PM ET on Thursday, February 20th (B/R Live, TUDNxtra)

2nd Leg: Salzburg vs. Frankfurt, 3 PM ET on Thursday, February 27th (B/R Live, TUDNxtra)

Romain Gall (Winger, Malmö FF)

Gall will be hoping that 2020 treats him better than 2019 did. The 25-yeat-old struggled to force his way into the team with any level of consistency last season. He did start to appear often off the bench toward the end of their season (the Swedish Allsvenskan has a similar schedule to MLS). The first leg against Wolfsburg will be their first match since their league season ended. Wolfsburg has the advantage, but Malmö will undoubtably give everything to advance. Hopefully we get to see Gall make an appearance or two. It would be cool to see an American vs. American matchup if Gall and John Brooks can get on the field.

1st Leg: Wolfsburg vs. Malmö, 3 PM ET on Thursday, February 20th (B/R Live, TUDNxtra)

2nd Leg: Malmö vs. Wolfsburg, 12:55 PM ET on Thursday, February 27th (B/R Live, TUDNxtra)

Owen Otasowie (Central Midfielder/Centerback, Wolverhampton Wanderers)

Otasowie made his professional debut on the final matchday of the group stage when Wolves had already clinched advancement to the knockout stage. Wolverhampton face one of the most difficult matchups in the round of 32, having been drawn against La Liga club Espanyol. The 19-year-old will hope to get his first taste of the knockout stages, but even if he doesn’t, it would help his chances for rotation if the club can advance and remain in the competition.

1st Leg: Wolves vs. Espanyol, 3 PM ET on Thursday, February 20th (B/R Live, UniMás, UnivisionNOW, TUDNxtra)

2nd Leg: Espanyol vs. Wolves, 12:55 PM ET on Thursday, February 27th (B/R Live, TUDNxtra)

Ethan Horvath (Goalkeeper, Club Brugge)

Brugge qualified for the Europa League knockout stage by finishing in third place behind Real Madrid and PSG in Group A. They will face off against Manchester United in a very difficult matchup to get to the round of 16. It’s been a really rough year for Horvath, having been benched in favor of summer signing Simon Mignolet. The 24-year-old has been the backup and hasn’t seen the field in any competition in several months. He figures to continue in that role going forward. Only an injury or suspension would change that scenario.

1st Leg: Brugge vs. Manchester United, 12:55 PM ET on Thursday, February 20th (B/R Live, UniMás, UnivisionNOW, TUDNxtra)

2nd Leg: Manchester United vs. Brugge, 3 PM ET on Thursday, February 27th (B/R Live, TUDNxtra)

Jesse Marsch (Manager, RB Salzburg)

RB Salzburg was the darling of the Champions League group stage, with standout performances from Erling Haaland and Takumi Minamino earning them big money moves to Borussia Dortmund and Liverpool respectively. Jesse Marsch impressed on the big stage, but they were unable to conjure enough magic to qualify for the knockout round. A deep Europa League run could be in the cards, but a recent dip in form could spell disaster if they can’t find their feet. Salzburg are facing off against Bundesliga club Eintracht Frankfurt and Timothy Chandler. It should be a fascinating matchup. Hopefully Jesse Marsch can get them to build on such a promising performance in the fall.

1st Leg: Frankfurt vs. Salzburg, 12:55 PM ET on Thursday, February 20th (B/R Live, TUDNxtra)

2nd Leg: Salzburg vs. Frankfurt, 3 PM ET on Thursday, February 27th (B/R Live, TUDNxtra)

Hit the comment section to discuss what you’re looking for and the performances of the players mentioned.