Crunch time has finally arrived in the leading leagues around Europe. In England, Italy and Spain, the current leaders can become champions this weekend. The fans in France are licking their lips in anticipation of the ultimate showdown, likely to have a decisive bearing on this season’s outcome, while in Germany, it is a question of who blinks first in a frantic four-horse dash for the line. FIFA.com previews the forthcoming action.
Premier League: United aim to seal title at home
In all Sir Alex Ferguson’s years at the helm, Manchester United have only wrapped up the league crown in front of their home crowd once. The intention now is a re-run of 1999, as the Red Devils go in search of the point they need for an 18th domestic league title against Arsenal at Old Trafford. However, the north London giants travel to the self-styled Theatre of Dreams harbouring powerful thoughts of revenge, as the Gunners were recently knocked out of the UEFA Champions League by the Red Devils at the semi-final stage.
Second-placed Liverpool visit bottom club West Bromwich Albion looking for maximum points both to keep their dwindling title hopes alive and stay ahead of third-placed Chelsea, who host struggling Blackburn Rovers. Elsewhere, Tottenham Hotspur and Manchester City collide in the battle for the one remaining berth in the inaugural UEFA Europa League, while Newcastle United will attempt to extract themselves from the relegation mire at home to Fulham.
The question: Can United seal an 18th league title and draw level with Liverpool, still the nation’s most successful club?
The big game: Manchester United-Arsenal, Saturday 16 May, 13.45, Old Trafford
The quote: "We know just how good Arsenal are. We’ll need a very good performance," Sir Alex Ferguson, Manchester United manager
La Liga: Barcelona on the brink
Barcelona will not have spent too much time celebrating Wednesday night’s Copa del Rey triumph, as there is a second and more valuable prize at stake this weekend. The Catalan side, whose fixture away to Mallorca is on Sunday, could be crowned Spanish champions a day earlier without kicking a ball, in the event Real Madrid fail to win away to Villarreal. Even if Real emerge victorious, Pep Guardiola’s men would still win the league with a point against the Balearic island outfit.
The tension in the Spanish capital itself will hardly be any less, as Atletico Madrid entertain Valencia with the chance to leapfrog the visitors in the standings. Fourth place is at stake, with the associated prize of a Champions League qualifying round berth. With the title race as good as over, the Spanish football community will certainly be keeping a close eye on the high-stakes duel.
The question: Will Barcelona wrap up their 19th domestic title at the weekend?
The big game: Atletico Madrid-Valencia, Sunday 17 May, 21.00, Estadio Vicente Calderon
The quote: "We’re taking it one step at a time. We’re concentrating on winning our second trophy of the season this Sunday by our own efforts," Gerard Pique, Barcelona defender
Serie A: Fourth straight crown awaits Inter
The Italian title race presents a similar picture to the situation in Spain. If second-placed AC Milan lose away to Udinese on Saturday, bitter rivals Inter would be crowned champions for the fourth time in a row, even though they do not play until the following day. However, should I Rossoneri get any kind of result, the Nerazzurri will require at least the same number of points at home to Siena in order to move beyond reach.
Juventus entertain Atalanta looking to cement their grip on the third direct qualifying spot for the Champions League. At the opposite end of the table, a proverbial relegation six-pointer pits third-bottom Bologna against Lecce, a place behind them. Basement side Reggina will be relegated should they lose at home to Cagliari and Torino win away to Napoli.
The question: After guiding teams to glory in Portugal and England, will Inter boss Jose Mourinho add the Italian crown to his collection this weekend?
The big game: Inter Milan-Siena, Sunday 17 May, 20.30, Stadio Giuseppe Meazza
The quote: "If Inter finish top, they deserve the title. We should compliment them on that," Gennaro Gattuso, AC Milan midfielder
Ligue 1: Marseille face ultimate test
The day of reckoning has dawned for Marseille. The leaders entertain defending champions Lyon on Sunday night, offering Erik Gerets' men the chance to prove they have the credentials to supplant the team which has won the last seven league titles. A win would not only take OM a giant stride closer to their first league crown since 1992, it would also extinguish Lyon’s last flickering hopes of making it eight on the bounce.
Runners-up Bordeaux, level on points with Marseille, have a winnable-looking home meeting against strugglers Le Mans. Fourth-placed Paris Saint-Germain need to beat Auxerre in the capital and hope Lyon lose in Marseille, a combination which would keep alive PSG’s hopes of a Champions League place.
The question: Is the curtain about to fall on Lyon’s greatest era?
The big game: Marseille-Lyon, Sunday 17 May, 21.00, Stade Velodrome
The quote: "If we succeed in maintaining our concentration, we’ll witness something extraordinary," Mathieu Valbuena, Marseille midfielder
Bundesliga: Too close to call
In the tightest title race of them all around Europe, the front two are level on points while a mere two points separate the top four. Leaders Wolfsburg and second-placed Bayern are both away from home. The Wolves travel to Lower Saxony rivals Hannover, with an increasingly solid and assured Munich side away to Hoffenheim.
However, Hertha Berlin and Stuttgart can both still win the league, as they are one and two points respectively off the pace. Both are also in scintillating form, and face eminently winnable home fixtures too. Hertha play mid-table Schalke, with Stuttgart entertaining relegation strugglers Energie Cottbus.
The question: Can caretaker boss Jupp Heynckes maintain his 100 per cent record with Bayern since replacing Jurgen Klinsmann?
The big game: Hannover-Wolfsburg, Saturday 16 May, 15.30, AWD Arena
The quote: "We’re approaching the last two matches with great confidence," Bastian Schweinsteiger, Bayern midfielder
In Switzerland, leaders FC Zurich can wrap up the title with a win at home to closest rivals Basel. On the final day in Belgium, Anderlecht and Standard Liege are level on points at the top and away to Genk and Gent respectively.
In Israel, meanwhile, only two points separate frontrunners Maccabi Haifa and Hapoel Tel Aviv. The pair meet in what could be the decisive game.
The situation is similar in Denmark, where Copenhagen and Brondby square off. The Russian season still has a long way to go, but the match between second-placed CSKA Moscow and third-placed Zenit represents an early test of strength.