With Friday 4 December’s Final Draw for the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa™ looming ever larger, there is no shortage of high-octane club action from across Planet Football to keep followers of the beautiful game entertained. The championships in Argentina, Brazil and Mexico are set to move one step closer to their eagerly anticipated finales this weekend, while there is a heavyweight clash between two title contenders in Iran. FIFA.com brings you right up to date.
Argentinian Apertura: Banfield in command
Leaders Banfield, the division’s only unbeaten side, will be hoping to extend their advantage at the top of the table when they host struggling Racing Avellaneda on matchday 16, with the visitors having lost six and drawn two of their eight away games this campaign. Heavyweights San Lorenzo and Boca Juniors, both out of contention for the title, meet in this weekend’s Buenos Aires clásico.
High stakes: On Monday Colon Santa Fe welcome Newell’s Old Boys for a clash between members of the chasing pack. Hosts El Sabalero are in third and lie four points behind Banfield, having played a game more, while second-placed La Lepra are just two points short of top spot.
Player to watch: If as expected Marcelo Gallardo misses out through injury, it could mean the return of veteran Ariel Ortega to the River Plate starting line-up against Estudiantes de La Plata. Having failed to start any of his side’s last four games, El Burrito would dearly love to give the suffering Millonarios’ fans something to cheer about.
Mexican Apertura: Last four in sight
The quarter-final second legs of the Mexican title-deciding Liguilla will be played this weekend, and there is everything still to play for. Toluca, who topped the overall regular season standings, are just 1-0 down in their tie with San Luis, the eighth-placed team in the regular phase. Cruz Azul host Puebla after the pair shared a 4-4 first-leg draw, while Morelia need to overcome a 2-1 deficit when they welcome Santos Laguna.
High stakes: Back in Liguilla action after a two-year absence, America are up against it in their tie with Monterrey. Beaten 1-0 away in the first leg, can Las Águilas turn the tables at the Estadio Azteca?
Player to watch: Having topped the regular-season scoring charts, Emanuel Villa curiously failed to find the net in Cruz Azul’s thrilling 4-4 draw with Puebla. The Argentinian sharpshooter will be determined to right that wrong in the return and help send La Máquina Cementera through.
Brasileirao: Quartet still in the hunt
The 37th and penultimate round of matches in the Brazilian top flight features four teams who could all end Sunday in first place in the standings. Sao Paulo (62 points), champions for the last three years and the current leaders, visit a Goias side who held second-placed Flamengo (61) to a goalless draw last time out. Fellow challengers Palmeiras and Internacional (both 59) take on Sport Recife and Atletico Mineiro respectively.
High stakes: Boasting Brazil’s two largest fan bases and a big-name forward each in the shape of Ronaldo and Adriano, what match could be more enticing than Corinthians-Flamengo? Only a win will do for visitors Fla if they wish to maintain their championship push.
Player to watch: Fred’s six goals in his last five games have been vital to reviving Fluminense’s recent fortunes. Up against Vitoria on Sunday, the former Lyon marksman will be determined to continue his purple patch and lift his side’s morale after their 5-1 thumping by Ecuador’s Liga Deportiva Universitaria in the Copa Sudamericana final first leg.
The 17th matchday of the Iran Pro League brings with it the meeting of domestic powerhouses Sepahan and Perspolis. Both teams go into the game on the back of wins over Peykan and Abomoslem respectively, though leaders Sepahan have the cushion of a five-point advantage over their fifth-placed rivals.
Over in Ecuador, Deportivo Cuenca and Deportivo Quito are set to go head-to-head in the first leg of the 2009 championship final. In Paraguay, meanwhile, first-placed Nacional will be looking to extend their three-point advantage over closest challengers Libertad and Rubio Niu by beating struggling Sportivo Luqueno.