Europa League preview: USMNT’s Johnson vs. Schalke; Man Utd has pitch issues

Marius Becker/dpa via AP
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Jose Mourinho might not love the substandard pitch at Rostov, but his Manchester United side will have to find a way to perform on it Thursday.

The Red Devils are in Russia, looking to nab some away goals and a bit of comfort in the first leg of their UEFA Europa League tie with Rostov.

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A comfortable win won’t be easy, but would mean a lot to a United side that has to contend with a FA Cup match against Chelsea this weekend before hosting Rostov next week.

Marcus Rashford is among the Red Devils unwilling to fret over the long trip to Russia. From ManUtd.com:

“Whatever [competition] the club is in, we’re expected to go far and we as players put the pressure on ourselves to try to win the competitions, so for us that’s what we’ve got in mind. We want to win the competition and whoever we have to play against, wherever we have to travel, we want to go there and win.”

Also on tap for Thursday is a pair of intra-league matches. Belgian sides Gent and Genk square off at Ghelamco Arena in Ghent, while new dad and USMNT winger Fabian Johnson will lead Borussia Monchengladbach into Schalke for a 3:05 p.m. EDT kickoff.

Gladbach beat Schalke this weekend in league play, with Johnson scoring. That means that by March 16, they’ll have faced off thrice in under two weeks.

“We will look to remain central again tomorrow but they have probably already prepared for that because they know our game,” Johnson said. “We will have analysed them in the same way they have studied us. It won’t be easy but it’s very doable.

“We’re playing a clear system at the moment and everyone know what they are doing. That makes us better as a team.”

Elsewhere, Roma will try to nab an away edge in Lyon, while Celta Vigo will hope to ease its competitive issues by handling Krasnodar comfortably at home in leg No. 1.

UEFA Europa League Round of 16

Rostov vs. Manchester United — 1 p.m. EDT
APOEL Nicosia vs. Anderlecht — 1 p.m. EDT
Copenhagen vs. Ajax — 1 p.m. EDY
Celta Vigo vs. Krasnodar — 3:05 p.m. EDT
Olympiacos vs. Besiktas — 3:05 p.m. EDT
Lyon vs. Roma — 3:05 p.m. EDT
Schalke vs. Borussia Monchengladbach — 3:05 p.m. EDT
Gent vs. Genk — 3:05 p.m. EDT