by GIANFRANCO PANIZO
While this weekend's slate of games contains several Americans in action, the two most intriguing fixtures involving Americans Abroad come on Saturday when Carlos Bocanegra and Maurice Edu play in what will arguably be the biggest matches of their club careers.
Bocanegra and Rennes will be looking for hardware in the Coupe de France final against Guingamp while Maurice Edu and Rangers host Celtic in the final Old Firm match-up of the season, one that will most likely determine this season's Scottish league champion.
After an impressive start to the season which saw them constantly in the top four teams of the French league, Rennes and Bocanegra have plunged down the standings, dropping all the way to 7th place. With first place clearly out of sight, and with next season's European competition further distancing itself with each passing week (4th place team in the French league qualifies for next season's UEFA Cup), the Coupe de France is Rennes' last shot to save face on what was once thought out to be a promising season.
Rennes defeated Grenoble 1-0 in the semifinals of the Coupe de France and will meet with Guingamp, of France's second division on Saturday. While the red and blacks are considered heavy favorites, Bocanegra and the rest of Rennes' defense must contain a pesky attack that has had a knack for knocking in late goals throughout the tournament's knockout stages. A win on Saturday will not only secure a trophy, but also a berth in the Europa League (the new name for the UEFA Cup starting next season).
While Edu and Rangers' game with nemesis Celtic isn't a tournament final like Bocanegra's match, the Old Firm will probably be the decider in who wins this season's Scottish league. Just as it has for much of the season, Rangers trails Celtic in the standings but are within a point of claiming first place from the hoops with four matches left to play.
Edu, who has recently put together a string of impressive performances for the Glasgow giants, is likely to be a starter on Saturday in what would be his first taste of one of Europe's biggest rivalries.
Edu has played in front of the rabid fan base at BMO Field during his Toronto FC days, but that will not compare to the pressure he will feel when he lines up in front of 51,000+ at Ibrox against the likes of crafty midfielder Shunsuke Nakamura, who has scored eight goals and assisted on ten this season. If Edu can help stifle Nakamura and the rest of Celtic's attack, then Rangers would be one step closer to winning the Scottish league, a task they have not accomplished since the 2004-2005 season.
With so much on the line this weekend, Bocanegra and Edu will need strong performances in the biggest matches of their club careers if they both want to end their 2008-2009 seasons on a positive note as well as with some hardware for their trophy cabinets.
What do you think of Bocanegra and Edu's marquee matches on Saturday? Do you see them both prevailing? Will either of them find the back of the net? Are you going to be watching both games?
Share your thoughts below.