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LIVE — UEL second legs will determine possible Wolves opponents

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Wolverhampton Wanderers will find out its first Europa League opponent on Friday, and the field will be winnowed with a bevy of second qualifying round second legs on Thursday.

[ LIVE: Europa League scores  ]

Malmo, Aberdeen, Kilmarnock, Rangers, Legia Warsaw, and Hajduk Split are the biggest names in play on Thursday, with only the Polish side failing to hold an advantage after the first leg.

American forward Romain Gall is in the mix for Malmo, though he’s been an unused sub of late for the Swedish powers. That could change today, with Malmo in Northern Ireland with a 7-0 advantage over Ballymena United.

You can follow the dozens of ties by clicking the link above.

Leeds defender Jansson joins Malmo fans outside Stamford Bridge

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Sometimes, soccer players can be accused of being too disconnected from the fans who travel across their country to support their side. But not Pontus Jansson.

The Leeds defender traveled to London Thursday evening to join Malmo fans as they marched, sang, and chanted outside Stamford Bridge. It’s unclear if Jansson actually went into the stadium for the Europa League match, but what is clear is that he’s never lost his affection for his boyhood club. He even led some supporters in one of the Swedish club’s chants.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ]

Jansson joined Malmo’s youth academy in 2006 and made his professional debut for his hometown side in 2009, playing in Sweden until 2014. Jansson has been a regular for Leeds each of the last three seasons since joining from Torino.

Like thousands of other Malmo fans, he probably figured this was his best chance to see a European away game of his favorite club close by. So there he went from Leeds to London to join the Malmo fans.

Arsenal, Chelsea cruise into Europa League Round of 16

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Arsenal looked right at home back in the friendly confines of the Emirates Stadium.

After losing twice on the road this month, including a surprise 1-0 defeat last Thursday to BATE Borisov, Arsenal took care of business at home. The Gunners defeated BATE, 3-0 on the night (3-1 on aggregate), with goals from centerbacks Shkodran Mustafi and Sokratis Papastathopoulous, while BATE’s Zakhar Volkov scored an own goal early to tie the scoreline between the two legs.

[READ: Premier League Power Rankings]

South of the Emirates Stadium, Chelsea built on their 2-1 aggregate lead over Malmo FF with a resounding 3-0 win. Malmo finished with ten men and the game was highlighted by goals from Callum Hudson-Odoi and a Ross Barkley free kick.

With the wins, both Premier League sides advance to the Europa League Round of 16. The draw for the Round of 16 will be held on Friday, with matches taking place March 7 and 14.

Arsenal took an unexpected lead in the fourth minute of the match. A seemingly harmless cross from Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang was somehow turned into his own net by BATE centerback Zakhar Volkov. After some shaky moments early, Arsenal settled in and controlled the match, leading to the go-ahead goal. Granit Xhaka played the first of his two assists as Mustafi got on the end of a corner kick to head the ball in for a goal.

In the 60th minute, Sokratis’ header off a corner kick put the game away and allowed Arsenal fans to relax for the final half-hour of play.

Chelsea, meanwhile, didn’t get the early goal like Arsenal but didn’t end up needing it.

Maurizio Sarri sat Jorginho, David Luiz and Marcos Alonso and it led to a better defensive performance, albeit Malmo isn’t a world beater. Olivier Giroud opened the scoring in the 55th minute with a tap-in after great work from N’Golo Kante and Willian. It was Giroud’s sixth Europa League goal this season.

Barkley delighted the Stamford Bridge crowd with a terrific free kick from the edge of the box in the 74th minute and Hudson-Odoi put the cherry on top with a right-footed strike ten minutes later.

Europa League, LIVE — Arsenal, Chelsea begin first legs

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The way it looks, Arsenal and Chelsea may need a Europa League title to revisit the hallowed grounds of the Champions League.

[ FOLLOW: Europa League scores ]

Arsenal goes first, its Round of 32 first leg set for a 12:55 p.m. ET kickoff at Borisov Arena against BATE Borisov.

Alexandre Lacazette leads the line for Arsenal in Belarus, with Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Denis Suarez on the bench.

Chelsea visits Malmo at 3 p.m. ET.

Full slate

12:55 p.m. ET
Lazio v. Sevilla
Rennes v. Real Betis
Slavia Prague v. Genk
Olympiacos v. Dynamo Kiev
Galatasaray v. Benfica
Rapid Vienna v. Inter Milan
Krasnodar v. Bayer Leverkusen
BATE Borisov v. Arsenal

3 p.m. ET
Club Brugge v. Red Bull Salzburg
Malmo v. Chelsea
Zurich v. Napoli
Celtic v. Valencia
Sporting Lisbon v. Villarreal
Shakhtar Donetsk v. Eintracht Frankfurt
Viktoria Plzen v. Dinamo Zagreb

Romain Gall rebounding after fall to Sweden’s 3rd tier

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Signed with fanfare by Columbus 18 months earlier, Romain Gall was released by the Crew in February 2016 after making just four first-team appearances in 1+ seasons. Just 21 years old, the midfielder had seen his hopes with Major League Soccer and the U.S. under-20 national team crater.

A little more than a month later, he signed with Nykopings, a third-tier team in a city of about 30,000 on Sweden’s Baltic coast, south of Stockholm. With no place to stay at first, he moved into a room in the house of the club’s chairman.

“My path was different because I went down three levels to then come back up,” he said Tuesday. “I don’t think a lot of people are willing to do that or even have the idea of doing that. And of course it wasn’t central Europe, so I can understand that it’s a path that not many players were willing to take.”

Now with Malmo, a top club in Sweden’s first tier, Gall is training with the U.S. national team in London and could make his debut in Thursday’s exhibition against England at Wembley Stadium.

“He had been off the radar a little bit and sort of re-emerged this year,” U.S. interim coach Dave Sarachan said. “He has put himself in the conversation with the minutes he’s getting and his consistent production this season. He is an intriguing player in the attacking third.”

Gall’s father, Thierry, works for Orange Communications, the former France Telecom. With wife Saida and three kids, the family kept moving back and forth between the U.S. and France until settling in Herndon, Virginia, when Romain was 7.

Romain, who was born in Paris, played with Herndon Youth Soccer and trained occasionally at D.C. United’s academy when he was 13 and 14. He moved to Real Salt Lake Arizona, an academy in Casa Grande, Arizona, when he was 15 and spent a little over a year there. Wanting to train at a higher level, he went back to France and joined Lorient’s academy in 2011 at age 16.

“My father came with me in the beginning to help me get settled, but then it was just me on my own,” he said.

Having failed to break into Lorient’s first team, he signed with the Crew in August 2014 and coach Gregg Berhalter called him “a strong addition.” He made his debut on Aug. 23 as a second-half substitute against Houston and had two more appearances, both as second-half subs.

The following January, Gall scored five goals for the U.S. at the CONCACAF Under-20 Championship, including a hat trick against Aruba and two versus Jamaica, tying Mexico’s Hirving Lozano for the tournament lead. He played alongside several of the players who have become part of the rebuilding U.S. national team in the past year, including Zack Steffen, Cameron Carter-Vickers, Matt Miazga and Paul Arriola.

But Gall was dropped that May from the roster for the Under-20 World Cup in New Zealand. He hadn’t gotten into a match with the Crew all season and had been slowed by a knee injury.

“It hurt at the time,” he said, unable to recall exactly what U-20 coach Tab Ramos told him.

He made just one appearance with the Crew in 2015, in a U.S. Open Cup match that June, and played 12 games on loan with the Austin Aztex of the third-tier United Soccer League. And then he was cut by the Crew and made the move to Sweden.

“I wanted to go back to Europe,” he said. “At the time, that was the only option that was presented to me. It was a tough decision. I knew that if I had to go there, I had to focus completely and move up as quickly as possible, because it was the third division in Sweden.”

He scored nine goals in 24 league games with Nykopings, then moved to first-tier Sundsvall and had nine more in 37 league matches over 1+ seasons. He transferred to defending champion Malmo, scored six goals in 13 league games and got to play in Champions League qualifying and the Europa League group stage.

“It’s nice to see him blossom in Sweden,” Miazga said. “Romain’s a very technical and skillful player. He has a lot of creativity.”

Berhalter, his old Crew coach, is the favorite to take over the U.S. national team. He has a chance to earn playing time in next year’s CONCACAF Gold Cup and in World Cup qualifying.

“It’s been a grind, really tough,” Gall said. “But now it’s paying off.”

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