With the semi-finals this weekend, the finishing line is in sight in Brazil’s state championships, while in Congo DR there are last-four places up for grabs. In Argentina, the traditional big guns have little margin for error if they want to improve on their lowly positions, but there are no such worries for the Chinese Super League contenders, who still have plenty of time to find their stride. FIFA.com looks ahead to the pick of the action.
Argentinian Clausura: A change at the top?
Independiente have held the top spot during recent weeks, kept company by Godoy Cruz, but third-placed Argentinos Juniors could overtake them both. Their victory over Rosario Central on Thursday made them the main beneficiaries of slip-ups by the duo above them. As for the traditional big two, Boca Juniors, struggling near the bottom, face Arsenal, while River Plate visit basement club Atletico Tucuman.
High stakes: Argentinos’ pursuit of the summit continues on Monday with a home encounter against a Colon side fresh from a 3-0 defeat of Boca. Banfield visit Velez in another game with a bearing on the upper reaches.
Player to watch: Santiago Gentiletti, the latest addition to the Argentinos Juniors’ rearguard, has been so impressive with his new side that several Spanish clubs are reportedly interested in his services. Can he star again this weekend and help his team hit the top?
Brazilian state championships: Showtime in Rio and Sao Paulo
Two enticing contests are in store in the semi-finals of the Taca Rio: Botafogo will take on Fluminense on Saturday with Flamengo and Vasco renewing their rivalry the following day.
High stakes: For all that, the most intriguing encounter will take place in the Campeonato Paulista, where Sao Paulo square off against Santos. The question for O Peixe fans now is whether their side can maintain their winning run with the ante upped for a state semi-final.
Player to watch: Robinho, Neymar and Ganso have performed impressively together so far, but will they come up trumps in their first decisive test?
Congolese Linafoot: Semi-final berths on offer
The competition in Congo DR is now entering the final straight and eight teams are fighting it out for places in the last four.
High stakes: Group 2 leaders TP Mazembe visit second-placed FC Saint Eloi Lupopo this weekend in a clash between the country’s two most titled clubs. Mazembe, the reigning African champions, are still alive in the continental competition but Saint Eloi’s season has stalled since their defeat in Zimbabwe, making victory here all the more pertinent.
Player to watch: Tresor Mputu is the star man not just at Mazembe but in Congo DR as a whole. Can the player dubbed the new Samuel Eto’o help his team overcome their immediate rivals?
Egyptian Premier League: In pursuit of Al Alhy
Holders Al Alhy remain six points clear despite Wednesday’s draw at Arab Contractors, with Zamalek unable to capitalise on that slip after drawing at home against Al Ittihad. Zamalek have shown a real improvement in the four months since Egyptian football legend Hossam Hassan took the helm but they can not afford to drop any more points.
High stakes: Zamalek welcome eighth-placed Haras El Hodood. Though on paper there is a gulf between the sides, the visitors have a history of making life difficult for the top clubs.
Player to watch: Haras’s leading scorer Ahmed Abdel Ghany has eight goals to his name so far and will be key to his team’s hopes of causing an upset.
Chinese Super League: An early crossroad
After the shocks of the first two rounds, which left not a single team with a 100% record, the favourites will now look to find their stride. Henan Jianye, third last season, are playing newly promoted Liaoning, while three-time champions Shandong Lunen face a visit from Chongqing. A win for either Henan or Shandong could see them go top of the table.
High stakes: All eyes will be on the derby between Changchun Yatai, the 2007 champions, and title-holders Beijing Guo’an. Both teams have three wins each from their last eight encounters – can one of them make it four?
Player to watch: He was his side’s joint-leading marksman last term with eight goals, and Australian forward Joel Griffiths has picked up where he left off with three more to help Beijing to their three wins so far in the domestic and continental competitions.
In Mexico, only a point separates leaders Guadalajara from reigning champions Monterrey, who face an easier-looking assignment against Real San Luis than Chivas do at home to Monarcas de Morelia.
Finally to the Telikom National Soccer League in Papua New Guinea. With the semi-final stage shortly under way, Hekari Souths United are already assured first place in the standings given their 14-point lead. Hekari are clear favourites to go on and claim the title but have already set their sights on a bigger goal: winning the OFC Champions League and thereby achieving the unthinkable feat of having a club from Papua New Guinea at the FIFA Club World Cup.