Exactly 11 weeks after football’s showpiece event kicked off on South African soil, the country’s biggest domestic competition will begin. FIFA.com also looks ahead to the forthcoming action within Argentina, Brazil, Mexico, the USA and Japan, all of whom participated in the 19th FIFA World Cup™, as well as Bolivia, Ecuador and the Dominican Republic.
Argentinian Apertura: Frontrunners hit the road
Velez Sarsfield and River Plate carry the only 100 per cent records into Round 4, but both face away tests from sides desperate to address poor starts. Maxi Moralez, Santiago Silva and their Fortín team-mates will cross Buenos Aires to take on Boca Juniors, while the Rogelio Funes Mori-fronted Millonarios meet reigning Clausura champions Argentinos Juniors.
Banfield and Arsenal, fourth and fifth respectively, also face stiff challenges on their travels. The former from ninth-placed Lanus; the latter from an Independiente side eager for their first win.
High stakes: Rock-bottom Tigre and Quilmes will both be out for their maiden victory.
Players to watch: Colon forward Federico Higuain will attempt to inflict defeat on the Godoy Cruz side for whom he impressed last term. To do so he will have to find a way past goalkeeper Nelson Ibanez, who is yearning an Argentina recall.
Brasileirao: Stand-outs in the spotlight
Washington is hoping service from Deco and Conca can help him consolidate Fluminense’s position at the top and heighten the relegation worries of his former employers Sao Paulo. Corinthians, five points off the pace in second, will charge the competition’s leading marksman Bruno Cesar with inspiring visiting Vitoria’s downfall.
Fourth-placed Santos, 12 points off the pace but with a game in hand, will expect Neymar to inspire a defeat of second-bottom Goias, while Cruzeiro and Vasco will lock horns in an encounter between sixth and ninth respectively.
High stakes: Botafogo, propelled by Somalia, Maicosuel and Jobson, have won five successive matches to ascend to third, two places above their forthcoming hosts and recently-crowned Libertadores champions Internacional, who boast the likes of Kleber, Tinga and D’Alessandro.
Players to watch: Diogo shone on his Flamengo debut in a goalless draw with Atletico Mineiro on Thursday. Can the 23-year-old become the first Mengão forward to score in seven games away to Guarani, who will have in-form striker Mazola back from suspension.
Mexican Apertura: High-flyers host strugglers
Overall leaders Santos Laguna and third-placed Monterrey entertain respective strugglers Atlas and Jaguares. Cruz Azul, the only other team to have broken the ten-point barrier following five rounds, largely thanks to an engine room cohabited by the industrious Gerardo Torrado and inventive Christian Gimenez, are at home to a resolute Tigres outfit.
Monarcas Morelia, three points off the overall pace but with a game in hand, are away to lowly Estudiantes Tecos.
High stakes: Guadalajara will welcome Pumas to Jalisco for a battle of title aspirants.
Players to watch: Group 2 pacesetters America, with Daniel Montenegro in their No10, host a Necaxa side spearheaded by his compatriot Dario Gandin.
Major League Soccer: Contenders jostle for play-off berths
Less than two months remain in the regular season, and while it would take a monumental decline to prevent Los Angeles Galaxy, Columbus Crew or Real Salt Lake claiming one of the eight play-off places, the rest appear very much up for grabs. Two teams in the driving seat for those five tickets will meet when New York Red Bulls welcome San Jose Earthquakes.
Toronto FC, ninth in the overall standings, are at home to RSL, while 12th-placed Kansas City Wizards will seek victory at the Galaxy.
High stakes: Colorado Rapids entertain Houston Dynamo in a game between sides just inside and outside the play-off qualification zone respectively. The Rapids will hope Conor Casey can help improve a run of just one win in nine games, while the Orange Crush are sure to look to Brian Ching for inspiration.
Players to watch: Seattle Sounders forward Fredy Montero will strive to spoil Chicago Fire ace Freddie Ljungberg’s return to Qwest Field.
South African Premiership: Let the race begin
Thirty-two countries recently provided a month of unforgettable action in South Africa. Now it’s the turn of 16 clubs to quench fans’ thirst for football in the Rainbow Nation. SuperSport United have retained coveted captain Bongani Khumalo and signed exciting forward Kermit Erasmus, and their bid for an unprecedented fourth straight crown will begin at Bidvest Wits.
Mamelodi Sundowns and Kaizer Chiefs, second and third last season, are at home to Moroka Swallows and Golden Arrows respectively, while fellow contenders Santos visit Free State Stars.
High stakes: Mpumalanga Black Aces and Platinum Stars, two of the favourites for relegation, will try to hit the ground running.
Players to watch: Chiefs winger Siphiwe Tshabalala and Arrows midfielder Thanduyise Khuboni helped Bafana Bafana upset France in their FIFA World Cup swansong. They will be on opposite sides at Rand Stadium.
Blooming and The Strongest, two of three teams sharing the leadership of the Bolivian Clausura, will collide. The other, San Jose, host fourth-placed Real Potosi in Round 6.
The output of Argentinian forwards Carlos Luna and Hernan Barcos has been central to Liga de Quito sitting atop the second stage of the Ecuadorian Serie A. They will now hope to break the resistance of compatriot Marcelo Elizaga, whose brilliant goalkeeping helped third-placed Emelec win the first stage. Deportivo Cuenca, in second, are away to in-form Manta in Round 9.
Just two points separate the top three heading into the final third of the Dominican Liga Mayor. Leaders Moca will hope Domingo Peralta is at his irrepressible best when reigning champions Deportivo Pantoja, who have risen to fourth thanks to the sparkling form of Darling Batista, come calling. Second-placed Jarabacoa travel to winless O&M, while third-placed Dosa will unleash Wellington Rosario on Atletico Barcelona.
With J.League table-toppers Nagoya Grampus hosting rock-bottom Kyoto Purple Sanga, the four sides within six points of Marcus Tulio Tanaka, Keiji Tamada, Josh Kennedy and Co will be determined to triumph. Cerezo Osaka, in second, host lowly Omiya Ardija and third-placed Kashima Antlers visit Urawa Red Diamonds, while Shimizu S-Pulse and Kawasaki Frontale will engage in a duel between fourth and fifth.