World Leagues preview

This weekend’s football action looks certain to get the juices flowing, with a large selection of derbies and clásicos taking place across the globe. previews the matches that you will not want to miss.

Argentinian Clausura: All eyes on the Superclásico
Diego Simeone’s San Lorenzo could lose their lead in Argentina this weekend as they visit second-placed Colon Santa Fe, who trail them by just one point. El Ciclón are in good form, have just beaten Uruguay’s River Plate in the first leg of their Copa Sudamericana quarter-final, but Colon are having a superb season which could see them qualify for the Copa Libertadores. Meanwhile, third-placed Argentinos Juniors, who are away to Tigre, and fourth-placed Velez Sarsfield, at home to Newell’s Old Boys, are best placed to take advantage of a stalemate between the top two.

Big game: The Argentinian Superclásico at the Monumental Stadium. River Plate could barely be in worse shape, with just one win in nine league matches, while Boca Juniors have won their last three, making them favourites for the clash. Lucas Viatri scored the Xeneizes’ winner in the corresponding fixture last year, but will not make the starting line-up on Sunday.
Player to watch: The Superclásico promises to serve up a tantalising face-off between Juan Riquelme and Ariel Ortega. Both veterans share a mutual respect, both have worn the famous Albiceleste No10 shirt, and now they must go head-to-head in one of the biggest games of the season.

Brasileirao: Derbies galore
Palmeiras remain on top in Brazil, but only by the most slender of margins. Their 2-0 defeat to Santo Andre on Wednesday was their third on the bounce, meaning that Atletico Mineiro can now move to within a point with victory over Vitoria on Saturday.

Big game: After back-to-back defeats, Sao Paulo are in danger of losing their Copa Libertadores qualifying spot, so a victory is vital against local rivals Santos (13th). Meanwhile, two other fiery regional derbies could give a new lease of life to Internacional (3rd) and Flamengo (5th). Internacional take on long-standing rivals Gremio (8th) while Fla, buoyed by recent wins over Sao Paulo and Palmeiras, come up against a Botafogo side languishing in the relegation zone (17th).
Player to watch: At the age of 37, Dejan Petkovic had fallen almost completely off the radar when his former team decided to give him another chance. And the gamble paid off handsomely, as the Serbian has become the catalyst for O Rubro-Negro’s recovery, Flamengo having recorded nine wins, eight draws and just one defeat in the games in which the veteran has played. Last Sunday, Petkovic scored both goals in Flamengo’s 2-0 win over Palmeiras, and will be looking to increase his tally against struggling Botafogo.

Korea Republic K-League: Crunch time
Just two matchdays remain to determine which six clubs will advance to the end-of-season play-offs. A win for Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors at 2008 champions Suwon Samsung Bluewings (9th), who cannot make the play-offs, would see them finish top for the regular season. Elsewhere, seventh-placed Gyeongnam FC need to beat Seongnam Ilhwa (4th) to remain in the hunt for a play-off spot.

Big game: Sixth-placed Incheon United face a nervy end to the season as they cannot afford to drop points, and their next match is against second-placed FC Seoul. Can United secure a crucial win? 
Player to watch: Jeonbuk’s Dong-Gook Lee is the league’s top scorer, three ahead of Seoul’s Dejan Damjanovic. When Jeonbuk played host to Suwon earlier this season, Lee scored their goal in a 1-1 draw and will be keen to get on the scoresheet again this weekend.

Mexican Apertura: The clásicos continue
Leaders Toluca, with 26 points, travel to Estudiantes for matchday 13’s opener in search of a morale-boosting victory after draws in their last two games. Estudiantes, however, will be eager to put an end to a run of three successive defeats. The hosts will need to shore up their defence, the league’s leakiest with 25 goals shipped in 12 games, in order to keep out Chilean Hector Mancilla, who has found the net in his last seven matches and has been the league’s top scorer for the past two seasons.

Big game: The clásico between America and Chivas Guadalajara is once again upon us. Although visitors America, in Group 2, hold a seven-point edge over their opponents in Group 1, both teams are third in their respective sections. As always, passions will be running high for this massive game.
Player to watch: Argentine forward Emmanuel Villa is currently the league’s top scorer with 11 goals in 12 games, and has become a vital player for Cruz Azul since his transfer earlier this year. Fans of La Máquina Celeste will be hoping he can fire them to victory against Queretaro on Saturday. 

With just five matchdays to go, things could not be tighter at the top of the Japanese J-League, with just eight points separating leaders Kawasaki Frontale from eighth-placed Urawa Red Diamonds. From now on, every game is a cup final, and this weekend the leaders host Sanfrecce Hiroshima, while second-placed Kashima Antlers, just one point behind, do battle with JEF United Chiba.

Finishing up Down Under, Australian A-League leaders Gold Coast United will be looking for their third straight win as they travel to Wellington Phoenix (8th), who have drawn their last six games and had just one win all season. Meanwhile second-placed Sydney FC, just a point off the pace, will want to atone for their recent reverse at Adelaide United as they host seventh-placed Brisbane Roar, who have lost their last three.