Weston McKennie is focused on returning to European competition with Schalke this season. - © 2018 DFL
Weston McKennie is focused on returning to European competition with Schalke this season. - © 2018 DFL

Weston McKennie eyeing return to Europe with Schalke

Schalke midfielder Weston McKennie has set his sights on qualifying for European competition with the Royal Blues once again this term following the disappointment of finishing 14th last season.

The 20-year-old USA international got a first taste of continental football in the UEFA Champions League 2018/19, featuring in six of Schalke's eight matches as they reached the last 16.

He even scored a vital winner in a 1-0 victory away to Lokomotiv Moscow in October last year to help the side finish second in Group D.

The team's domestic form was a different matter, however, winning just eight times all season as they struggled to scale the heights of their second-place finish the previous year. As such, Schalke will be absent from the European stage this term for just the second time in nine years.

McKennie is looking forward to working with fellow American David Wagner this season. - 2019 Getty Images

Undeterred, McKennie is determined to start afresh under new head coach David Wagner and launch a new tilt at a berth in the top six in 2019/20.

“For me, it’s realistic for us to get back into Europe," the Texas native told Sky.de. "Just to play in Europe, whether it’s Europa League or Champions League. Anything’s possible.

"Football is a sport where anything can happen. I’ve learned that in the last few years: we went from one season of finishing second to fighting against relegation in the next.

"I’m the kind of guy who is always very positive and I always want to think about the biggest thing possible. If you don’t make it, then you always have to try and reach that main goal.”

McKennie's optimism is by no means misplaced. Schalke trimmed their squad over the summer and recruited smartly, bringing in young players including Ozan Kabak, Benito Raman and Jonjoe Kenny, all of whom are candidates for the first team.

Their credentials will be tested early on this season, with Schalke beginning their campaign away to fellow top-six hopefuls Borussia Mönchengladbach on Saturday, before playing Bayern Munich and RB Leipzig in their first six games of the Bundesliga season.