The Premier League features the single biggest clash of the
European weekend when the leaders visit their closest rivals, but
home wins for the teams in top spot in Germany and Spain could
effectively settle the destination of league honours this term.
The leading teams in Italy and France face relatively untaxing fixtures on paper, but the situations in Scotland and Turkey are laden with drama as two of football's most passionate rivalries are renewed.
FIFA.com previews the weekend action in Europe's biggest leagues.
Premier League: Titanic clash could settle title race
Stamford Bridge provides the stage for a true clash of the titans on Saturday, when second-placed Chelsea meet leaders Manchester United. Superstar Cristiano Ronaldo and his team-mates are three points clear and boast a vastly superior goal difference, but a thrilling Premier League contest will be blown wide open yet again if the Blues carry the day this weekend.
Arsenal and Liverpool, third and fourth respectively, will expect to tighten their already firm grip on the Champions League qualifying places. The Gunners visit relegated bottom club Derby County, with the Reds away to struggling Birmingham. For their part, in-form Villa travel for a crunch encounter with Everton, one place higher in the table and currently in possession of the solitary automatic UEFA Cup spot.
The question: Can Chelsea win and inject new life into the title race, or will United effectively wrap up the trophy on their closest rivals' home turf?
The big game: Chelsea-Manchester United, Saturday 26 April, 1.45 pm.
The quote: "Chelsea is a massive game. I'm sure it'll be a fantastic match, and that we'll go there and win," Sir Alex Ferguson, Manchester United manager.
La Liga: Turmoil engulfs the Mestalla
Fifteenth-placed Valencia have ridden an emotional roller-coaster over the last two weeks, recovering from a 2-1 home reverse against Racing Santander to win the Copa del Rey at Getafe's expense, only to collapse 5-1 on their travels to Athletic Bilbao. Alarmed club bosses had seen enough and dismissed coach Ronald Koeman and Director of Sport Miguel Angel Ruiz on Monday. Salvador Voro Gonzalez has now been charged with staving off the spectre of relegation. The first test of Voro's credentials comes on Sunday in a six-pointer against 14th-placed Osasuna.
Leaders Real Madrid, a full ten points clear of Villarreal, will expect to win at home against tenth-placed Athletic Bilbao in tenth on Sunday. Villarreal visit Betis Sevilla (11th), while third-placed Barcelona will attempt to keep alive their hopes of a direct qualifying spot for the Champions League away to Deportiva La Coruna on Saturday.
The question: After taking just three points from their last four games, Barcelona are on the back foot in the race for a Champions League qualifying finish. Can coach Frank Rijkaard's men return to winning ways?
The big game: Deportivo La Coruna-Barcelona, Saturday 26 April, 8.00 pm
The quote: "We don't need any more in-depth analyses of our current situation. The season is drawing to a close, and it's an incredibly dangerous situation. All that matters is points, everything else is a distraction," Timo Hildebrand, Valencia goalkeeper.
Bundesliga: Six still in the hunt for Europe
The one apparent certainty in the Bundesliga is the identity of the new champions. Bayern Munich lead the standings by ten points from Werder Bremen and are unlikely to let the trophy slip from their grasp in the remaining five games. Ottmar Hitzfeld's men entertain fellow South German giants Stuttgart at the Munich Arena on Sunday, but the outgoing champions in fifth will not give up without a fight as they battle for a UEFA Champions League qualifying place.
On Saturday, fourth-placed Hamburg meet Schalke, the team one place above them in the table, while Werder travel to the best of the promoted clubs, tenth-placed Karlsruhe. Sixth meet seventh the following day when UEFA Cup aspirants Bayer Leverkusen welcome Wolfsburg to the BayArena.
The question: Can Hamburg end a dismal run of five games without a win in the showdown with Schalke?
The big game: Hamburg-Schalke, Saturday 26 April, 3.30pm.
The quote: "I'm a little tired, but that's only to be expected. After a week back in training, I'm ready to start playing again." Daniel Jensen, Werder Bremen's Denmark international.
Serie A: Front-runners primed for victory
Leaders Inter Milan and closest pursuers Roma will be counting on maximum points from Matchday 35 in Serie A. Inter (78 points) entertain Cagliari (15th), with Roma (72 points) hosting Torino (16th).
Elsewhere, promoted Juventus in third can guarantee a Champions League qualifying spot with a win against 12th-placed Lazio. The real battle in Italy is for fourth, which also brings a shot at qualifying for Europe's elite club competition. Fiorentina, current occupants of the spot in question, meet Sampdoria, two places and four points below them, while AC Milan in fifth, also four points adrift of the men from Florence, visit relegation candidates Livorno in 18th place.
The question: Can promoted Juventus beat Lazio and seal a Champions League qualifying berth?
The big game: Fiorentina-Sampdoria, Sunday 27 April, 3.00 pm.
The quote: "We want to prove to everyone, the club, the fans and ourselves, that Milan are ready and willing to give everything for fourth place," Cafu, AC Milan defender.
Ligue 1: Lyon and Bordeaux in fight to the finish
Lyon lead Bordeaux by four points at the top, and few would bet against the margin remaining constant after the weekend fixtures. The serial champions and their in-demand goal-getter Karim Benzema entertain promoted Caen (11th), while Nice (ninth) travel to face Bordeaux.
Nancy, currently occupying the third Champions League qualifying spot, travel to Valenciennes (12th) on Sunday. Pursuers Olympique Marseille visit long-standing rivals Monaco (13th).
There is plenty of excitement in the lower reaches of the French table too, where Paris Saint-Germain in 18th are staring a once-unthinkable relegation full in the face. AJ Auxerre, themselves far from assured of safety in 15th, visit the capital on Saturday.
The question: Can PSG end a run of three consecutive defeats and haul themselves away from the drop zone at the weekend?
The big game: Monaco-Marseille, Sunday 27 April, 8.55 pm
The quote: "It'll be a good game. We know all about Monaco, and we're well aware winning there won't be easy," Mathieu Valbuena, Marseille midfielder.
Sunday lunchtime witnesses the latest instalment in the ongoing drama that is Glasgow's Old Firm derby, with a crowd of 60,000-plus set to pack into Celtic Park for another classic encounter. Rangers had looked all but certain to end their rivals' recent dominance of the Scottish Premier League, but Jan Venngoor of Hesselink's injury time winner in the most recent Glasgow derby gave Gordon Strachan's side fresh hope, and renewed impetus. Now, after beating Aberdeen last Saturday, Celtic are in a position where they can move five points clear at the league's summit with victory, although Rangers still have three games in hand.
The Turkish league schedule features a mighty Istanbul showdown
between leaders Fenerbahce and second-placed Galatasaray, both on
70 points and separated by a solitary goal. In the event of a draw,
surprise package Sivasspor could move to within a point of the top
two with a win away to eighth-placed Denizlispor.
An equally exciting climax is on the cards in Serbia, where front-runners Partizan Belgrade (59 points) have a three-point lead over champions and cup holders Crvena Zvezda. The leaders cross town to face promoted Cukaricki (fourth), with Crvena Zvezda away to fifth placed Borac Cacak.