American Exports preview: Edu, Rangers closing on crown
AMSTERDAM — With most of the prominent European leagues winding down, there are several tasty matches on tap this weekend. All times are ET.
SCOTTISH PREMIER LEAGUE
Rangers vs. Hearts
Saturday, 7:15 am
American: Maurice Edu (Rangers)
The US international has been taking heat from some fans lately for what they view as mixed performances, but he should be in the lineup when the Light Blues attempt to widen their lead at the top of the table over Celtic. With three games remaining, Rangers still cling to a one-point lead over their archrvials and can take a huge step toward their third straight SPL crown with a win against Hearts.
Edu's midfield mate Lee McCulloch could finally be back from injury and his return would complete the Rangers selection. However, Hearts will be missing most - if not all - of Ismael Bouzid, Calum Elliot, Kevin Kyle, Rudi Skacel, Andy Webster and No. 1 netminder Marian Kello. A draw would all but clinch a Europa League place for the visitors, but they've only managed that result twice in their last 15 Ibrox visits.
Stuttgart vs. Hannover 96
Saturday, 9:30 am on Dish German Sports
Americans: DaMarcus Beasley & Steve Cherundolo (Hannover 96)
It remains to be seen if Beasley will re-emerge this season, but Cherundolo will captain the Reds from right back, per usual. Hannover need a victory if they want to keep Champions League hope alive to closing day, but they still require Bayern Munich to drop at least three points from their last two games to move up from their current Europa league slot.
Die Roten generally do not enjoy their trips to Stuttgart, with only one win and one draw to show for their last 14 games there. Hannover should return Lars Stindl to midfield, while the hosts must go without Philipp Degen, Timo Gebhardt, Ciprian Marica and Cristian Molinaro. The Schwabians are finishing strong despite struggling mightily much of the season, having notched three straight wins and six from their last nine.
DUTCH KNVB CUP
FC Twente vs. Ajax
American: Oguchi Onyewu (FC Twente)
Gooch seems unlikely to start the cup final, but manager Michel Preud'homme may find a way to give the American defender a firsthand look at Ajax's capabilities before next weekend's title bout finale in Amsterdam. Chasing their third Dutch Cup crown, Twente are now only missing Nicky Kuiper. Ajax, after their 19th, are short starting keeper Maarten Stekelenburg and top scorer Mounir El Hamdaoui.
Onyewu and company will be listed as the home team for this De Kuip tilt, but it is among the favorite Ajax haunts - they've won eight straight KNVB finals there and haven't lost away to regular residents Feyenoord in seven. Twente have lost just once in the last five meetings outside Amsterdam, but the Godenzonen won the only Dutch Cup final between the two in 1979.
DANISH SAS LIGA
Brøndby vs. FC Copenhagen
American: Clarence Goodson (Brøndby)
The US center back will marshal the back line for this derby clash with the club carrying a 295-minute shutout streak with him on the field. It won't be for the title that home fans hoped, but chasers Brøndby could apply heavy pressure in the race for Denmark's second Champions League spot with a win.
It won't be easy, though. Copenhagen have won four straight showdowns and haven't lost one in eight meetings. Bench striker Martin Bernburg will be the most prominent Brøndby absence, while the crowned champs have ruled out starting midfielder Martin Vingaard.
Crystal Palace vs. Nottingham Forest
Saturday, 7:45 am (delayed on Fox Soccer Plus at 2 pm)
American: Robbie Findley (Nottingham Forest)
It's all very simple for the visitors on the season's final day: a draw clinches the last place in the promotion playoffs. Findley, who has been nursing a thigh nag, could see significant minutes with forwards Dexter Blackstock, Robert Earnshaw and Nathan Tyson missing in action.
Palace, meanwhile, are set to return winger Sean Scannell, but top striker James Vaughan will require a late fitness check. The Eagles, who clinched survival last week, have emerged victorious just once from the last half dozen Forest invasions.
Best of the rest:
EPL: Aston Villa (Michael Bradley, Brad Friedel) vs. Wigan - 10 am on Fox Soccer Plus/FoxSoccer.tv
EPL: Everton (Tim Howard) vs. Manchester City - 10 am on Fox Soccer Channel
EPL: West Ham United (Jonathan Spector) vs. Blackburn (Jermaine Jones) - Sat. 10 am on ESPN2
Bundesliga: Eintracht Frankfurt (Ricardo Clark) vs. FC Cologne - Sat. 9:30 am on Dish German Sports
Bundesliga: FC Nürnberg (Timothy Chandler) vs. Hoffenheim - Sat. 9:30 am on Dish German Sports
Ligue 1: Arles vs. Saint-Étienne (Carlos Bocanegra) - Sat. 1 pm on FoxSoccer.tv
Turkish Süper Lig: Bursaspor (Jozy Altidore) vs. Beşiktaş - Sun. 1 pm
Danish SAS Liga: Esbjerg vs. FC Nordsjælland (Michael Parkhurst) - Sun. 10 am
Norwegian Tippeligaen: Molde FK (Josh Gatt) vs. Rosenborg - Sun. 2 pm
Swedish Allsvenskan: Djurgårdens (Gale Agbossoumonde) vs. Halmstads (Ryan Miller) - Sat. 10 am
Israeli Ligat Ha'al: Hapoel Tel Aviv vs. Maccabi Netanya (Leo Krupnick) - Sat. 9:30 am
English Championship: Queens Park Rangers vs. Leeds United (Eric Lichaj) - Sat. 7:45 am on Fox Soccer Plus
German 2.Bundesliga: Arminia Bielefeld vs. Karlsruhe (Luis Robles) - Sun. 7:30 am
Turkish Bank Asya 1.Lig: Rizespor (Freddy Adu) vs. Tavsanli Linyitspor - Sun. 7 am