EUROPE: Maurice Edu back for Boxing Day?
Rangers FC has finally set a solid target for Maurice Edu's return: Boxing Day.
The midfielder from Fontana, out since sustaining a knee injury Nov. 10, could be back on the field when the Scottish Premier League leader takes on Motherwell next Sunday in the traditional day-after-Christmas match.
Rangers is slated to play Tuesday at Dundee United, but three of its past four league matches have been postponed because of harsh weather. Saturday's clash with St. Mirren at Ibrox was called off when pipes burst during a post-snow and ice thaw.
“[Last] weekend would have been too soon for Maurice,” Rangers manager Walter Smith told the club's Web site. “But I would think he would start to get a run-out in training this weekend, and we'll see where we go from there.
“I don't think he'll be ready for the Dundee United match … but [next] weekend at Motherwell looks like a real possibility.”
Edu (Etiwanda HS) has missed only five games since he was hurt in a 3-0 loss to Hibernian, the Blues' only league defeat this season. He was out for Rangers' final two group-stage matches in the UEFA Champions League but can look forward to UEFA Europa League action in February.
Poor weather has impacted every club in Scotland. Rangers (12-1-2) maintains a three-point lead in the SPL over archrival Celtic FC (11-2-2), and the Glasgow powerhouses have two games in hand over their nearest rivals.
EUROPA, EUROPA: Belgian champion RSC Anderlecht, with Huntington Beach's Sacha Kljestan (Huntington Beach SH) now a regular contributor in midfield, booked its passage to the second-tier UEFA Europa League's round of 16 with a simple 2-0 triumph over Croatia's Hajduk Split in a Group G finale, getting the required aid from group winner Zenit St. Petersburg -- a 3-0 winner at AEK Athens -- to push ahead of the Greeks and into second place.
Their reward: a Low Countries showdown with Ajax Amsterdam, a former European powerhouse unable to compete with the big-country giants since the Bosman ruling brought a form of free agency to European soccer in 1995. The draw was held Friday in Nyon, Switzerland.
Rangers, in the Europa League after finishing third in its UEFA Champions League group, will face Sporting Lisbon. Anderlecht and Rangers will be home for Feb. 17 first legs, with second legs away Feb. 24.
Here is the full round-of-32 draw (all series Feb. 17 and 24 unless noted):
Napoli (Italy) vs. Villarreal (Spain)
Rangers FC (Scotland) vs. Sporting Lisbon (Portugal)
Sparta Prague (Czech Republic) vs. Liverpool (England)
RSC Anderlecht (Belgium) vs. Ajax Amsterdam (Netherlands)
Lech Poznan (Poland) vs. Sporting Braga (Portugal)
Besiktas (Turkey) vs. Dynamo Kiev (Ukraine)
FC Basel (Switzerland) vs. Spartak Moscow (Russia)
Young Boys Bern (Switzerland) vs. Zenit St. Petersburg (Russia)
Aris Thessaloniki (Greece) vs. Manchester City (England), first leg Feb. 15
PAOK Thessaloniki (Greece) vs. CSKA Moscow (Russia), second leg Feb. 22
Sevilla (Spain) vs. FC Porto (Portugal), second leg Feb. 22
Rubin Kazan (Russia) vs. FC Twente (Netherlands)
Lille (France) vs. PSV Eindhoven (Netherlands)
Benfica (Portugal) vs. VfB Stuttgart (Germany)
BATE Borisov (Belarus) vs. Paris Saint-Germain (France)
Metalist Kharkiv (Ukraine) vs. Bayer Leverkusen (Germany)
CHAMPIONS LEAGUE: Here's the round-of-16 draw in Europe's top club competition (with first leg/second leg dates):
AS Roma (Italy) vs. Shakhtar Donetsk (Ukraine), Feb. 16/March 8
AC Milan (Italy) vs. Tottenham (England), Feb. 15/March 9
Valencia (Spain) vs. Schalke 04 (Germany), Feb. 15/March 9
Inter Milan (Italy) vs. Bayern Munich (Germany), Feb. 23/March 15
Lyon (France) vs. Real Madrid (Spain), Feb. 22/March 16
Arsenal (England) vs. Barcelona (Spain), Feb. 16/March 8
Olympique Marseille (France) vs. Manchester United (England), Feb. 23/March 15
FC Copenhagen (Denmark) vs. Chelsea (England), Feb. 22/March 16
ETC: Michael Bradley gave perhaps his best performance of the season Friday in Bundesliga basement-dweller Borussia Moenchengladbach's 2-1 loss to Hamburger SV, setting up one goal (a nice byline cross to Igor De Camargo) and nearly creating a second (wonderful ball for Thorben Marx, who was stopped 1-on-1 by Hamburg keeper Frank Rost). Die Fohlen head into winter break with a 2-11-4 mark and a seven-point climb from the relegation zone. … Alta Loma's Carlos Bocanegra helped Saint-Etienne to its second successive shutout victory (and its second French Ligue 1 triumph since Sept. 25), a 2-0 triumph over Arles. Les Verts (7-4-7) are sixth in the standings, just three points off the lead, after conceding just six shots -- just two on target -- in the victory.
- AREA PLAYERS IN EUROPE
D CARLOS BOCANEGRA (Alta Loma/UCLA)
Club: Saint-Etienne (France, Ligue 1)
Last week: 90 minutes as Les Verts (7-4-7) moved up to sixth with a 2-0 victory Saturday over last-place Arles
Season: 14 league games (14 starts) with 1 goal, 15 games (15 starts) with 1 goal in all competitions
Next: Wednesday at first-place Lille (8-2-7)
Club: Borussia Moenchengladbach (Germany, Bundesliga)
Last week: Started, played 77 minutes and set up the lone goal for last-place Die Fohlen (2-11-4) in a 2-1 loss Friday to Hambuger SV
Season: 16 league games (16 starts) with 3 goals; 18 games (18 starts) with 4 goals in all competitions
Next: Tuesday at Hoffenheim in a German Cup round-of-16 match
D JAY DENNY (Santa Monica)
Club: Hednesford Town (England, Southern League Premier Division)
Last week: Saturday's game at Swindon Supermarine was postponed because the field was frozen
Season: 19 league games (17 starts), 23 games (20 starts) with 1 goal in all competitions
Next: Tuesday at Boldmere St. Michaels in Birmingham Senior Cup, Monday (Dec. 27) vs. 17th-place Halesowen Town (4-9-5)
M MAURICE EDU (Fontana)
Club: Rangers FC (Scotland, Premier Division)
Last week: Saturday's game against St. Mirren was postponed because of water damage to the field
Season: 12 league games (10 starts) with 1 goal, 17 games (15 starts) with 2 goals in all competitions
Next: Tuesday at seventh-place Dundee United (5-5-4), Sunday at sixth-place Motherwell (7-6-2)
M BENNY FEILHABER (Irvine/UCLA)
Club:AGF Aarhus (Denmark, 1.Division)
Last week: League is on winter break
Season: 14 league games (14 starts) with 4 goals, 17 games (16 starts) overall with 7 goals
Next: March 20 vs. Hobro (5-7-3)
G BRAD FRIEDEL (Bay Village, Ohio/UCLA)
Club: Aston Villa (England, Premier Division)
Last week: Saturday's game at Wigan was postponed because of snow
Season: 17 league games (17 starts), 28 goals allowed, 56 saves, 4 shutouts; 19 games (19 starts), 31 goals allowed, 63 saves, 4 shutouts in all competitions
Next: Sunday vs. fifth-place Tottenham (7-4-6)
M SACHA KLJESTAN (Huntington Beach)
Club: RSC Anderlecht (Belgium, Jupiler League)
Last week: 90 minutes as Les Mauves et Blancs beat Hajduk Split, 2-0, Thursday to qualify for the UEFA Europa Cup round of 32; 90 minutes as RSCA (13-2-5) moved back into the top spot in the Jupiler League with a 2-0 victory Sunday at Club Brugge
Season: 12 league games (9 starts) with 2 goals, 4 Europa League games (4 starts), 20 games (17 starts) with 3 goals in all competitions
Next: Sunday vs. 15th-place Lierse SK (1-11-7)
D DALLAS MOORE (Santa Monica)
Club: Halesowen Town FC (England, Southern League Premier Division)
Last week: Started, played 86 minutes, as the Yeltz (4-9-5) dropped to 17th with a 7-1 loss Tuesday at Salisbury City; Saturday's game vs. Chippenham Town was postponed because of snow
Season: 13 league games (13 starts) with 1 goal
Next: Monday (Dec. 27) at ninth-place Hednesford Town (8-7-4)
F YURA MOVSISYAN (Pasadena/Pasadena City College)
Club: Randers (Denmark, SAS-Ligaen/Superliga)
Last week: League is on winter break
Season: 17 league games (15 starts) with 5 goals, 25 games (20 starts) with 14 goals in all competitions
Next: March 6 vs. ninth-place Nordsjaelland (6-9-4)
F MATT TAYLOR (Irvine/UCLA)
Club: Rot Weiss Ahlen (Germany, 3. Bundesliga)
Last week: Wednesday's game against Hansa Rostock and Saturday's against TuS Koblenz were postponed because of snow
Season: 11 league games (11 starts) with 7 goals, 1 cup game (1 start), 12 games (12 starts) with 7 goals in all competitions
Next: Jan. 22 at last-place Werder Bremen II (3-9-7)