Europa League Knockout Draw: Dest, Barcelona With Tough Napoli Task

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The eight parings for next years Preliminary Knockout Round of the Europa League final stage was set with Monday afternoon’s draw, handing all three Americans entering at this stage potentially tricky paths to the final 16.

Under the new format of European competition, the eight third-place finishers in the Champions League Group Stage are paired against the eight second-place winners in the Europa League’s groups, in a preliminary knockout round.

The eight winners of this round advance to face the remaining eight who won their groups in the Europa League.

As no Americans were on teams finishing runners-up in their Europa League groups, this round only includes the three Americans – Tyler Adams, Sergiño Dest and Giovanni Reyna – whose teams missed the cut in the top competition.

The fact that all three of these players’ teams, RB Leipzig, FC Barcelona and Borussia Dortmund respectively, were competing at various stages of the Champions League knockout round in each of the last two seasons gives a greater intrigue than what otherwise might have been expected.

Of the three, Reyna and Dortmund have perhaps the simplest task as they will face Scottish powerhouse Rangers over two legs in February. While Dortmund are unlikely to do any better than runners-up to Bayern in their Bundesliga campaign, they should still be considered significant favorites over the Scots.

Leipzig are closer to equal footing with Spaniards Real Sociedad, despite a current seventh-place standing in the Bundesliga, compared to their opponents’ impressive fifth-place in La Liga.

Nevertheless, Adams and the rest of the Leipzigers have had an uptick of form lately, since they cut ties with Jesse Marsch, having beaten Manchester City and Borussia Mönchengladbach by a combined 6-1 scoreline in their last two outings.

The most intriguing matchup of this round belongs to Sergiño Dest and his Barcelona teammates, who must deal with a Napoli team that has been one of the best so far in Italy’s Serie A.

Barcelona’s well-documented struggles saw them drop down to Europe’s second tier for the first time in nearly two decades, and an immediate two-legged contest against one of the current favorites to win Italy’s domestic title could very well make head coach Xavi’s stay in the competition a short and painful one.

The games are set to be played on consecutive Thursdays, February 17 and 24.

Europa League Knockout Draw

RB Leipzig (Tyler Adams) – Real Sociedad
Barcelona (Sergiño Dest) – Napoli
Borussia Dortmund (Giovanni Reyna) – Rangers


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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