American Exports: Aron Johannsson aims to help AZ Alkmaar close on Europa League berth
AMSTERDAM – The top flights in England, Germany and Austria will close up shop this weekend, while US forward Aron Jóhannsson tries to get back in the game for AZ Alkmaar's Europa League playoff semifinal capper at Heerenveen.
All times listed in ET.
ENGLISH PREMIER LEAGUE
Jozy Altidore – Sunderland vs. Swansea City
Expected to start for the US at World Cup, Altidore gets his last chance of the campaign to lift his disappointing goal total for relegation-fight winners Sunderland. As he did in the early-season Swans loss, the striker should at least get minutes off the bench. The Black Cats tend to struggle mightily against Swansea, who have shut them out six of the last nine times out. They have managed to go unbeaten in the last three Stadium of Light meetings.
Brad Friedel – Tottenham Hotspur vs. Brad Guzan – Aston Villa (Sunday, 10 am on USA Network)
Guzan, who is 0-3 against Spurs, will go into closing day looking to become the fifth American netminder to post at least 10 shutouts in a single EPL season. Meanwhile, some hope lives for a first-ever clash between Friedel and his former Villa understudy, what with the veteran set to run out of contract and Tottenham having nothing to play for in the last game. The Villans have not enjoyed this match-up for a while now; the residents of White Hart Lane have won four straight in the series and are unbeaten in the last 11 meetings.
Aron Jóhannsson – AZ Alkmaar at Heerenveen (Saturday, 2:45 pm)
The AZ top gun returned to training on Thursday, making it seem likely he will dress when they try to reach the Europa League playoff final. With the Cheese Farmers up 3-0 from the home leg, though, it does seem unlikely he will start. The 1981 UEFA Cup runners-up could be missing a slew of players, including wing stalwart Roy Beerens, while Eredivisie Golden Boot man Alfred Finnbogason is out for Heerenveen. With help from four goals by Jóhannsson and US teammate Altidore, Sunday's visitors have achieved an even 3-3-1 split in their last seven at the Abe Lenstra.
TURKISH SÜPER LIG
Jermaine Jones – Besiktas at Elazigspor
The Black Eagles' midfield muscle is striving to get back in the lineup as their chase for Turkey's only group-phase pass to the next edition of the Champions League reaches the penultimate round of play. Besiktas love seeing Elazigspor, thanks to a 7-0 lifetime record with a 24-7 scoring margin. Still, they stand a point and four goals in differential behind archrivals Galalatasray, who face a tricky trip against a Trabzonspor side hungry for points so as to clinch a Europa League spot.
Terrence Boyd – Rapid Vienna at Ried (Sunday, 10:30 am)
In what he hopes will be a warm-up for the upcoming USMNT camp, Boyd heads into the season finale on five tallies and a helper in three games. The Rapid goal shark also has netted three times with four assists in six career games against Ried, four of them ending in victory. With second place already in the bag, Boyd & Co. will wager a 10-game bulletproof run against a team that's beaten them the last two times away from Vienna.
BEST OF THE REST
Geoff Cameron, Brek Shea – Stoke City at West Bromwich Albion, Sun. 10 am on Oxygen
Tim Howard – Everton at Hull City, Sun. 10 am on Bravo
John Brooks – Hertha Berlin vs. Borussia Dortmund, Sat. 9:30 am on MyGermanTV+
Fabian Johnson, Joe Gyau – Hoffenheim vs. Braunschweig, Sat. 9:30 am on MyGermanTV+
Alejandro Bedoya – Nantes vs. Saint-Étienne, Sat. 3 pm on TV5 Monde
Sacha Kljestan – Anderlecht vs. Genk, Sun. noon
Babajide Ogunbiyi – Viborg vs. FC Nordsjælland, Sun. 11 am
Michael Stephens, Coach Bob Bradley – Stabæk vs. Sarpsborg 08, Sun. noon