An already fierce Brasileirao title battle is set to intensify over the next two days, while Argentina’s early pacesetters will continue to jockey for position. Elsewhere, Cruz Azul have a winning streak to defend in Mexico, Australia’s top three hit the road, and there are a couple of appetising encounters in Japan. FIFA.com looks ahead to all that and more in its latest preview of the major leagues outside Europe.
Argentinian Apertura: Logjam at the top
With only six games gone, there is understandably little to choose between the leaders. Estudiantes, Velez Sarsfield and River Plate are all tied at the top on 13 points - though El Pincha do have a game in hand - while San Lorenzo and Arsenal are a mere point behind. The men from La Plata are at All Boys this Sunday, while River Plate continue their fight against relegation at Newell’s Old Boys later in the afternoon.
High stakes: Following last week’s 1-0 defeat at River, Arsenal face another acid test when they entertain Velez in the weekend’s big game.
Team to watch: Just two points off the summit, sixth-placed Godoy Cruz have impressed everyone with their attacking football. Omar Asad’s side are the league’s top scorers and have drawn praise from both the River and Boca Juniors coaches for their stylish play.
Brasileirao: Fla test for faltering Flu
Having now passed the halfway stage, the race the glory is coming to the boil nicely. Fluminense’s recent stumbles have given fresh hope to their title rivals. Their latest slip-up came at home to closest challengers Corinthians on Wednesday, O Timão winning 2-1 to pull level on points with the leaders with a game in hand.
With Cruzeiro and Botafogo now just one and four points adrift, in third and fourth respectively, Flu will be under pressure to revive their ailing fortunes when they take on old Rio foes Flamengo. Corinthians are at home to bottom club Gremio Prudente, meanwhile, with local adversaries Palmeiras and Sao Paulo squaring off in the latest staging of O Choque Rei.
High stakes: Title contenders Cruzeiro and Botafogo have been in fine form since the resumption of the league. The two will put their credentials to the test when they meet at the Engenhao on Saturday, a match that could have a big bearing on the final outcome in the Brasilerao.
Player to watch: With Fred still sidelined, the task of getting Fluminense back to winning ways after two consecutive defeats falls to strike partner Washington, the scorer of four goals in their last three matches, his most productive spell since joining O Fluzão from Sao Paulo.
Mexican Apertura: Big incentive for Cruz
Cruz Azul have picked up the baton following Santos Laguna’s blistering start to the season. Top of Group 3 with 18 points, Los Cementeros now head the overall standings, having won four in a row and scored 13 goals in the process. Victory at home to Queretaro will see them equal their best-ever start, which came in 2005.
High stakes: Group 2 leaders with 12 points, America will seek their first win over Toluca at the Estadio Nemesio Diez in five years. Victory for Los Diablos Rojos, however, will take them to the top of the section.
Player to watch: Now at America following a spell with Germany’s Schalke, Uruguayan striker Vicente Sanchez will be reacquainted with his former club on Sunday. The 30-year-old forward spent several seasons at Toluca, helping them to two league titles during his stay.
In Major League Soccer, Los Angeles Galaxy defend their position at the top of the Western Conference against DC United. The LA side are also keeping a close eye on David Beckham’s recovery from injury and hope to have the English star back in action before the end of the regular season.
Three points clear at the top of the A-League, Adelaide United are at sixth-placed Brisbane Roar this weekend. Perth Glory and Central Coast Mariners, who are in hot pursuit just three points behind, are also on the road, taking on Newcastle Jets and Gold Coast United respectively.
Finally, there are two big games to look forward to in the J-League. Frontrunners Nagoya Grampus Eight take on a Yokohama Marinos team still harbouring hopes of a successful title push, while Osaka rivals Gamba and Cerezo face off in a match that pits second against fifth. Kashima Antlers and Shimizu S-Pulse are also well in the frame and will be out to boost their championship challenges against Omiya Ardija and Urawa Red Diamonds respectively.