Jermaine Jones has played in the UEFA Champions League, in major Bundesliga matches and in plenty of important U.S. national team games. Something he has yet to experience is the passion and intensity of a Turkish derby.
Jones will experience just that on Sunday when Besiktas takes on Turkish league leader Fenerbahce in a meeting of the top two teams in the league. Fenerbahce is running away with the league, but the match means much more for Besiktas, which currently holds a slim one-point lead on Galatasaray for the second Champions League slot.
The match is also an important one for Jones, as he looks to play himself into top form heading into the World Cup. The competition in central midfield with the U.S. team is heating up, and Jones can solidify his standing as a starter with a strong showing against Fenerbahce. He has played every minute in his team's past three matches and will be key to Besiktas' hopes of pulling off an upset on Sunday.
Another German-born U.S. national team midfielder faces a very important match this weekend as Danny Williams makes his return from a knee injury. Williams and Reading take on Wigan Athletic on Saturday in a key English League Championship side. Reading is in a three-way tie for sixth place in the League Championship, which also happens to be the final spot in the promotion playoffs. A Reading win would tie the Royals with Wigan for fifth place.
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For Tim Howard and Everton, Sunday's showdown with Manchester United is essentially a must-win if the Toffees are going to keep their hopes of a Champions League place alive. Everton's stunning mid-week loss to Crystal Palace means the Toffees won't have much room for error in the season's final month. Especially with the team they are chasing, Arsenal, facing a much easier schedule down the stretch.
For Geoff Cameron and Stoke City, the motivation for Saturday's match against Crystal Palace will be to win and move a step closer to boasting the best Premier League finish in club history. The Potters are riding high at the moment, but Crystal Palace has also won four of five matches and come off that impressive win at Everton.
Sunderland's hope of escaping relegation seems to have all but disappeared, and a match against powerful Chelsea on Sunday will likely only make things worse for Jozy Altidore's side. Altidore seems unlikely to feature against Chelsea, having failed to make an appearance in the team's past three matches, though he did make the substitute's bench in the team's mid-week tie against Manchester City.
Brad Guzan and Aston Villa are mired in a four-match losing streak that suddenly has the Villans just four points away from the relegation zone. A win at Villa Park against eighth-place Southampton could easy some of the pressure off of Aston Villa, and with Southampton having lost three of four, it isn't an unreasonable task.
In Germany, John Brooks made headlines for getting into hot water with Hertha Berlin after he was forced to miss practice time due to a large back tattoo he recently received. That could cost him a chance to feature in Hertha's match against Augsburg on Saturday. Fellow U.S. national team defender Fabian Johnson will join Hoffenheim in taking on Werder Bremen on Saturday.
In France, Alejandro Bedoya and Nantes taking on relegation-threatened Valenciennes on Saturday. Bedoya has started three straight matches for Nantes and will look to keep the momentum going as he moves toward an expected place on the U.S. World Cup team.
In Mexico, DaMarcus Beasley and Puebla will look to improve their chances of avoiding relegation in Liga MX with a win against Pachuca. Michael Orozco has been sidelined by a hamstring injury and Puebla won't have an easy time without him against a heavily-favored Pachuca side.
The large contingent of Americans at Club Tijuana have a very winnable match against struggling Atlante on Sunday. Atlante has lost four of five matches while the Xolos come in 2-1-1 in their past four. For U.S. national team hopefuls Joe Corona and Herculez Gomez, the match could be one of the final opportunities to impress Jurgen Klinsmann enough to earn an invitation to the pre-World Cup training camp in May.
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