Six teams could finish the weekend as the outright leaders in Argentina, while six of the top seven will square off in Brazil. There’s plenty in store further up the Americas, where the top three in Mexico hit the road and the USA stages its most anticipated round of the year. With a new season beginning in Algeria and the champagne ready to be uncorked in Côte d'Ivoire, FIFA.com looks ahead to the forthcoming action outside Europe.
Argentinian Apertura: Congestion at the top
Just two points separate the top six and, of those teams, it’s Estudiantes who appear to have the hardest task in Round 8. Los Pincharratas, who have a game in hand on the fellow contenders, entertain a Boca Juniors side fresh from two impressive victories that have elevated them to within five points of the summit.
New leaders San Lorenzo will visit struggling Colon, second-placed Velez Sarsfield host out-of-sorts Olimpo, and Arsenal are at home to seventh-placed Newell’s Old Boys, while Banfield, spearheaded by the on-song Emilio Zeleya, are at winless Argentinos Juniors.
High stakes: River Plate may have one eye on the title, but their other one is forced to glare at the prospect of demotion. Mariano Pavone is set to make his first start for Los Millonarios, alongside Rogelio Funes in attack, in a relegation battle at home to Quilmes.
Players to watch: Estudiantes icon Juan Sebastian Veron and in-form Boca striker Martin Palermo will be up against their former clubs in La Plata.
Brasileirao: Contenders collide
Table-topping Corinthians face their third huge away examination in the space of 11 days, and after passing tests from Fluminense and Santos, Bruno Cesar, Iarley and team-mates will be confident they can win at fifth-placed Internacional, for whom new Brazil call-up Giuliano and the mercurial Andres D'Alessandro have been thriving.
Second-placed Fluminense are at lowly Vitoria, Botafogo and Atletico Paranaense will meet in a duel between fourth and sixth, and eight-placed Sao Paulo will let 18-year-old revelation Lucas loose on their second-bottom guests Goias.
High stakes: Cruzeiro have taken 19 points from a possible 21 in September to charge to within three points of the summit. Santos, by contrast, have won only one of their last six games to plummet to seventh.
Players to watch: Effectively responsible for the dismissal of coach Dorival Junior and left out of the latest Seleção squad, Neymar will be desperate to propel O Peixe to a much-needed victory over a Raposa outfit for whom Walter Montillo has been sparkling.
Mexican Apertura: Top three hit the road
Cruz Azul have won their last five matches, scoring at least three times in each of them. Next up for the thriving Javier Orozco and Co is a trip to a Necaxa team seeking their first victory in six attempts. Their closest two challengers on the overall standings, the Christian Benitez-fronted Santos Laguna and Monterrey, will visit America and Queretaro respectively.
Atlante have significant work to do if they are to reach the play-offs. Next up for the Cancun outfit is a trip to Pumas, who are second in Group 3.
High stakes: Tigres, narrowly inside the Liguilla qualification zone, will welcome a Guadalajara side just outside of it to Nuevo Leon.
Players to watch: The scrap between the former’s Brazilian forward Itamar and Chivas defender Jonny Magallon could be crucial to the outcome of their contest.
Major League Soccer: RSL, Crew on the cusp
Fresh from becoming the first team to reach the play-offs, Los Angeles Galaxy will lock horns with New York Red Bulls in arguably the most anticipated clash of the campaign. Hans Backe’s side, second in the Eastern Conference, will be without Thierry Henry on Friday evening, but Rafa Marquez will line up against David Beckham for the first time since November 2005, when Barcelona won 3-0 at Real Madrid.
Real Salt Lake will join the Galaxy in the MLS Cup if they beat Colorado Rapids, who are sixth in the overall standings, while Columbus Crew will reach the play-offs if they win away to New England Revolution and other results go their way.
High stakes: Toronto FC will entertain San Jose Earthquakes in an encounter between teams just inside and outside the play-off berths respectively.
Players to watch: Kaiansu Kamara of Kansas City Wizards and FC Dallas creator David Ferreira will both be out to shine in a meeting of sides third in their respective conferences.
J.League: Talismen key to title complexion
Shimizu S-Pulse have taken just four points from a possible 18 to fall from first to fifth, but will have the chance to close to within five points of leaders Nagoya Grampus when they entertain them in Shizuoka.
Kashima Antlers, in second, will charge Marquinhos with earning them victory at mid-table Sanfrecce Hiroshima, while Cerezo Osaka and Gamba Osaka, both eight points shy of pole position, are away to lowly Vissel Kobe and sixth-placed Kawasaki Frontale respectively.
High stakes: FC Tokyo, who occupy the highest position in the relegation zone, host an Omiya Ardija outfit only two places and three points above them.
Players to watch: Cerezo playmaker Takashi Inui and Gamba midfielder Yasuhito Endo could be key to their employers remaining in the title hunt, while all eyes will be on the shoot-out between Shimizu’s Shinji Okazaki and Josh Kennedy of Nagoya, two of the four joint-leading marksmen in the competition.
MC Alger will begin the defence of their Algerian Ligue 1 title at El Eulma, while record 14-time champions JS Kabylie are at home to Khroub. The pick of the Round 1 games will pit USM Alger and ES Setif, heavyweights who finished fourth and second respectively last term, against one another.
Asec Mimosas, eight points clear at the Ivorian Premier League summit with three rounds remaining, will seal a second successive crown with victory at Denguele Sport on Saturday. The Abidjan giants will entrust Bakary Kone and the in-form Irenee Kouakou with sealing the deal.