Champions League Draw: Pulisic, Chelsea Face Lille on Path to Title Defense

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After an initial mishap that forced an embarrassing re-drawing of the Round of 16 games, UEFA finally got it right, setting the pairings for the first knockout round of the Champions League.

What was described as a “clerical error”, which initially led to Manchester United being incorrectly excluded from the possible opponents for Atletico Madrid, UEFA’s second attempt did get things right, setting up some several highlights for the Round of 16.

The top billing of the round is surely the clash between PSG and Real Madrid, with Inter’s pairing against Liverpool a close second, none of which will involve Americans barring some shock winter transfer. Nevertheless, several Yanks will be participating with their teams in the round, with their outlook ranging from strong favorites to utterly overwhelming underdogs.

The only likely battle between Americans will occur when Chelsea and Lille battle for a place in the final eight, over a two-match series which will see the defending champions as clear favorites.

Both Christian Pulisic and Timothy Weah have been regular contributors – when healthy – for their respective teams. In the case of Pulisic, he has been a regular fixture as either a substitute or spot starter for the Blues since returning in early-November. Weah has been a more regular starter for Les Dogues, however is currently out with an injury, and has no clear timeline for his return.

The other team involving an American to come out of Lille’s group is Red Bull Salzburg, for whom Brenden Aaronson is a regular starter in the midfield. For their efforts of reaching the knockout round for the first time ever in club history, they were rewarded with the shortest possible traveling distance, and perhaps the toughest possible opponent in FC Bayern.

The Bavarians won all six of their games in group play, twice defeating fallen powerhouse Barcelona to pass into the final 16 as one of the clear favorites to lift the trophy in late-May in St. Petersburg.

Elsewhere in the round, Weston McKennie, who has missed the last few games for Juventus with a minor knee injury, will undoubtedly be satisfied with their pairing against Villarreal, a tough opponent to be sure, but one which the Bianconeri should be confident of defeating over two legs.

Finally, the two Manchester clubs provide footnotes in the draw; Zack Steffen will likely watch from the bench for the remainder of the competition, beginning with Manchester City’s two games against Portuguese team Sporting, while Manchester United assistant coach Chris Armas will get his first taste of European play alongside his new boss Ralf Rangnick against Atletico Madrid.

The exact dates for the games are yet to be set, however the first leg will occur in mid-/late-February, with the return leg to be played three weeks later.

Champions League Round of 16 Draw

Red Bull Salzburg (Brenden Aaronson) – FC Bayern
Sporting CP – Manchester City (Zack Steffen)
Chelsea (Christian Pulisic)Lille (Timothy Weah)
Villarreal – Juventus (Weston McKennie)


David Smith

I'm YA's resident doctor, but not the kind of doctor you would want giving you an examination anywhere outside of a lecture hall. I've been YA's feet-on-the-ground in Germany since 2008, have an affinity for overly verbose descriptions of irrelevant minutiae, keep an eye on YAs in most of the destinations on mainland Europe, and watch a whole lot of Serie A.

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