Los Angeles Soccer: AEK Athens
RSC Anderlecht is in a must-win situation Thursday, and its going to need a little help, too.
The Belgian champion will advance to the UEFA Europa League's round of 32 with a win Thursday over visiting Hajduk Split and a victory by Zenit St. Petersburg over AEK Athens.
Anderlecht, with former Chivas USA captain Sacha Kljestan (Huntington Beach/Huntington Beach HS) in midfield, is 1-3-1 in Group G of Europe's No. 2 club competition and sits three points behind AEK (2-2-1) in the battle for second place. RSCA holds the tiebreaker with the Greeks and will advance if they finish even on points.
The Mauves might seem to be in an advantageous position. Zenit (5-0-0) has won all but one of its group matches by two goals, and the Russian group leader romped to a three-goal lead in the other victory, a 3-2 decision over Hajduk Split in Croatia.
All AEK needs is a draw to advance, but if they lose, Anderlecht is ready to take advantage.
Scottish champion Rangers FC, with midfielder Maurice Edu (Fontana/Etiwanda HS) expected back shortly from a knee injury, dropped into the round of 32 after finishing third in its group in the top-tier UEFA Champions League.
A draw Friday in Nyon, Switzerland, will set up eight four-team brackets for round-of-32 matches Feb. 17 and 24 and round-of-16 games March 10 and 17. The survivors will be drawn March 18 into an eight-team bracket. The final is May 18 in Dublin, Ireland.
Fontana's Maurice Edu didn't make the trek to Turkey for Rangers FC's UEFA Champions League finale Tuesday, but he's expected back soon -- possibly this weekend.
The former Etiwanda High School standout has been sidelined since going down with a knee injury in a Scottish Premier League match Nov. 10 against Hibernian, and the club's Web site reported that he "isn't far away from returning to the fray."
He won't play Tuesday in Rangers' meaningless clash with Bursaspor in Bursa, Turkey, but he might return for Saturday's league game at Inverness Caledonian Thistle -- if it goes off.
Tuesday's game counts for nothing: The Blues (1-2-2) have clinched third place in the four-team Group C -- and will drop into the second-tier UEFA Europa League's round of 32 -- and Bursaspor (0-5-0) is last. Edu, the Web site said, is building fitness and recovering from tonsillitis.
Edu has missed only three games, and he can thank the harsh weather that has hit Scotland the past month. Rangers hasn't played since it was eliminated from the Champions League by Manchester United on Nov. 24. Its last two Scottish Premier League matches were postponed because of icy conditions that left fields unplayable.ANDERLECHT, TOO?: Belgian champion Anderlecht, with Huntington Beach's Sacha Kljestan, also is hoping to be in the Europa League's knockout stage, which begins play in February. The Zebras are third in Group G of the Europa League with a 1-3-1 mark following last week's 3-1 loss to Zenit St. Petersburg in Russia and must finish in the top two.
RSC Anderlecht grabbed the top spot in Belgium's Jupiler League on Saturday, and now the Brussels-based club aims for something bigger -- and in uncompromising conditions.
The Zebras are in Russia, for Wednesday's UEFA Europa League clash with Zenit St. Petersburg, and a victory will all but assure them a spot in next year's knockout phase.
Huntington Beach's Sacha Kljestan (Huntington Beach HS) was back in the starting lineup for Anderlecht's 4-1 victory over last-place Royal Charleroi, and he's in the 20-man traveling party for Wednesday's game, which will be played in temperatures hovering just above zero.
"It will be a tough match, in exceptional weather conditions that we are not used to," Anderlecht general manager Herman Van Holsbeeck said, according to British website SportingLife.com. "In normal circumstances, Zenit has a very strong team, and that has been seen in this Europa League campaign, when they have not dropped a single point in their games so far. It's also a team which has the qualities that you need to play in the Champions League."
Zenit (4-0-0), which on Sunday completed its title run in Russia's Premier League, already has clinched one of Group G's two slots in the round of 32. Anderlecht (1-2-1), Greece's AEK Athens (1-2-1) and Croatia's Hajduk Split (1-3-0) are battling for the last. The Belgians own the tiebreaker with AEK and can claim a knockout-phase berth with an upset over Zenit.
It could lead to another move, to a bigger club.
Taylor (Irvine HS/UCLA), who joined the third-tier 3.Bundesliga club in the traditional Muenster region of western Germany at the end of August, has scored four goals in his last three games as Rot Weiss has quickly climbed from 16th to ninth in the standings.
He netted the 81st-minute winner Saturday in a 2-1 victory at SV Jahn Regensburg, the Red and Whites' third successive victory after winning just once in their first 12 matches.
Taylor has six goals in nine games -- when he scores, Rot Weiss (4-4-7) is 4-0-0.
He tallied twice in a 3-0 win Sept. 18 over Carl Zeiss Jena, then started on his current streak two weeks ago with the second goal in a 3-2 triumph over Bayern Munich's second team. He scored two more last week in a 4-1 romp over SV Weben Wiesbaden.