American Exports Weekend Preview: Holden, Bolton eye top 5 spot

While most leagues in Europe take the holiday season to enjoy a, um, holiday, the UK plugs right along. A full slate of matches in England and Scotland make Boxing Day one of the best soccer feasts of the season—provided the recent wintry conditions allow it to take place this year. 

PREMIER LEAGUE 

Fulham vs. West Ham

Sunday, 7 am ET

Americans: Clint Dempsey, Eddie Johnson (Fulham), Jonathon Spector (West Ham)

Spector, of course, has redefined himself—and his career!—with a move to center midfield in the last month. Not that it has helped: The last-placed Hammers have failed to win in their last three matches. Meanwhile, Dempsey’s Cottagers aren’t doing much better. They’ve won only once in 13 matches in the league. "Deuce," Fulham’s leading goal-scorer, should get another start, and could have a banner day against the EPL’s worst defense. 

Bolton Wanderers vs. West Bromwich Albion

Sunday, 10 am ET, Fox Soccer Plus

American: Stuart Holden (Bolton)

All hail, Holden! The former Houston Dynamo midfielder was recognized this week as the highest-rated player in the EPL, according to The Guardian’s readers. Now he has a chance to lead his surprising side into 5th place if they get three points and Spurs and Sunderland fail to win.

Everton vs. Birmingham City (POSTPONED DUE TO WEATHER)

Sunday, 10 am ET

American: Tim Howard (Everton)

Howard turned in a vintage performance last time out, against Man City, as the Toffees continued their long way back from the bottom half of the table with a 2-1 away win. Beating the Blues at Goodison Park could actually lift Everton up to 8th spot, depending on other results. 

Wolverhampton Wolves vs. Wigan Athletic

Sunday, 10 am ET

American: Marcus Hahnemann

US keeper Hahnemann has been relegated to the bench lately, and that will likely continue this weekend. This is a massive match for Wolves, who sit in 19th place. Three points at home against the side right above them in the table is a must.

Aston Villa vs. Tottenham Hotspur

Sunday, 12:30 pm ET, Fox Soccer Channel

American: Brad Freidel, Brad Guzan, Eric Lichaj (Aston Villa)

There’s discussion galore about Friedel’s future at Villa Park, with manager Gerard Houllier hinting that the US keeper could be on the outs. A big-time performance could help the 39-year-old’s cause. Energetic defender Lichaj got his first ever EPL start last time out, a 2-1 victory over Sunderland, the Villans’ first win in six games. He appears set to get the nod again, complete with the unenviable task of stopping scintillating Spurs winger Gareth Bale. 

SCOTTISH PREMIER LEAGUE

Motherwell vs. Rangers

Sunday, 10 am ET

American: Maurice Edu (Rangers)

Sidelined with a knee injury—and tonsillitis, of all things—US midfielder Edu has been training again and could make a return to the SPL leaders’ squad against 6th-placed Motherwell.


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