As Brazil's four main contenders prepare to meet, the battle for MLS play-off places intensifies and Kashima Antlers attempt to strengthen their grip on the J.League crown, looks ahead to a weekend of football that promises thrills and spills aplenty.

Brasileirao: Top four do battle
In Brazil, a dramatic and potentially decisive weekend lies in store. Something has to give as the top four are pitted against each other, with third-placed Sao Paulo - just four points behind Palmeiras - playing host to the leaders in the first of two Sunday showdowns. The day's second crunch match sees Internacional, in fourth, welcome second-placed Goias, who could seize pole position should they win and Palmeiras lose at the Morumbi. At the other end of the table, meanwhile, Fluminense - anchored to the bottom and seven points away from safety - face a crucial trip to mid-table Santos.
Big game: The meeting of first and third at the Morumbi promises to be a classic. Palmeiras are worthy leaders at this stage of the season, but O Verdão's last Brasileirao success came 15 years ago, while Sao Paulo are aiming to finish as champions for the fourth season in succession. Could the hosts' superior experience prove to be crucial?
Players to watch: All eyes will be on Fernandao as he returns to face Internacional, the club he captained to glory in the 2006 Copa Libertadores and FIFA Club World Cup, and recently rejected to rejoin Goias. There will also be interest in the performance of Inter midfielder Sandro, who was yesterday drafted into Dunga's Brazil squad for the first time.

American Major League Soccer: Push for the play-offs
The race for MLS play-off places is set to pick up pace. New England Revolution, fourth in the Eastern Conference, have games in hand but know that a win at home to San Jose Earthquakes, who prop up the Western Conference, is essential if they are to move up the standings. Elsewhere, bottom hosts top in the Eastern Conference, with New York Red Bulls pinning their hopes on record scorer Juan Pablo Angel to knock Columbus Crew off their perch.
Big game: Two formidable play-off contenders will square up in Commerce City on Sunday when Western Conference leaders Houston Dynamo travel to fifth-placed Colorado Rapids. The Dynamo boast the best overall record in MLS, but have played more games than any other club and have won just once in their last four games, so will be eager to regain some momentum.
Players to watch: Understandably, much has been made of the relationship between David Beckham and Landon Donovan at LA Galaxy and, regardless of their off-field issues, the pair certainly appear to exerting a positive influence on the field. Galaxy have lost just once in five matches since Beckham's return, while Donovan marked his 200th MLS appearance with goal number ten of the season against Chicago Fire last week.

J-League: Antlers closing in
A third successive J.League title looks to be firmly within the grasp of Kashima Antlers, who hold a commanding eight-point lead with 23 matches played. A slick 3-1 win over FC Tokyo last week preserved this advantage, and while second-placed Kawasaki Frontale also won, the challengers' hopes of a first-ever J.League crown are reliant on the leaders slipping up - and soon.
Big game: Frontale may be Antlers' most likely rivals, but they could be leapfrogged themselves at the weekend should they lose by two or more goals to Shimizu S-Pulse, who currently sit just three points behind in third.
Player to watch: Though now 33, Antlers' Brazilian striker Marquinhos - the league's top scorer and MVP last season - remains the reigning champions' key player and goes into their match away to struggling Omija Ardija in fine goalscoring form.

Australian A-League: Leaders faces Jets test
Early pace-setters Gold Coast United, boasting the league's most dynamic attack, spearheaded by the in-form Shane Smeltz, travel to Newcastle Jets as the only team with an unblemished record after three rounds. Waiting to pounce in second spot are Sydney FC, who have been looking solid under Czech coach Vitezslav Lavicka and have a full-strength squad to choose from for their home encounter with Wellington Phoenix.
Big game: Champions Melbourne Victory will be looking to overcome a stuttering start on the road against Perth Glory, who themselves are yet to find rhythm despite some major signings.
Player to watch: Socceroo midfield lynchpin Jason Culina has been in typically impressive form for new boys Gold Coast United and will have the rare experience of opposing his father Branko, coach of weekend opponents Newcastle Jets.


After dropping points in their opening fixtures, Boca Juniors and River Plate will attempt to kick-start their Argentinian Apertura campaigns with morale-boosting wins against Lanus and Chacarita Juniors respectively. Elsewhere, Clausura champions Velez Sarsfield, who started with a win, play host to Arsenal, while FIFA Club World Cup hopefuls Estudiantes are looking forward to a fiery La Plata derby against Gimnasia.

Orlando Pirates have been making the early running in South Africa, meanwhile, and entertain Jomo Cosmos with a two-point lead after two wins and a draw from their opening three matches. However, with six other sides including Mamelodi Sundowns and Bloemfontein Celtic also yet to taste defeat, Ruud Krol's side know that they can ill afford any slip-ups, even at this early stage of the season.