European Leagues preview

With Europe's leading championships having reached almost a third of the way through their seasons, it is time for the title hopefuls to start imposing their will. takes a look at the upcoming games this weekend.

Premier League: North London calling

The temperature is set to rise in the English capital this weekend with London's most fiercely contested derby pitting Arsenal against Tottenham Hotspur. The rivalry between the two clubs is always intense and will be all the more so given the current Premier League picture: fourth and unbeaten in their last five outings, the Gunners lead their traditional foes thanks to goal difference alone.

The fixture computer has been somewhat kinder on the other major powers, with frontrunners Chelsea visiting Bolton and fifth-placed Liverpool travelling to face Fulham, while, in second, Manchester United will be looking to get the better of visitors Blackburn at Old Trafford. In the lower reaches, meanwhile, Gianfranco Zola's second-bottom West Ham face a tricky test at eighth-placed Sunderland as they target a first triumph in nine matches.

The question: Having suffered defeat in their last five home matches, will Portsmouth halt that trend when Wigan come calling?
The big game: Arsenal-Tottenham Hotspur, Saturday 31 October, 13:45 (CET), Emirates Stadium
The quote: "We have to not be frightened - we have to play and enjoy because, in these types of games, we can only win. If we get out with a draw or a win from Old Trafford it will be great for us because normally, you are going to lose there. We have to enjoy ourselves against these teams, and I think now is a good time to get a result there," Michel Salgado, Blackburn defender.

La Liga: Pellegrini under pressure
The players at third-tier Alcoron probably still cannot believe what they achieved in midweek - and the expensively assembled talents at Real Madrid even less so. Beaten 4-0 in the Copa del Rey by the modest outfit from the suburbs of the capital, Los Merengues slipped a little closer towards the precipice. After a 3-2 home defeat by AC Milan in the UEFA Champions League and a frustrating goalless draw at Sporting Gijon, losing to Alcoron was the last thing Manuel Pellegrini and his side needed. If Spanish press reports are to be believed, the former Villarreal trainer needs to turn the situation around with immediate effect.

That leaves next opponents Getafe looking like a team to be feared, particularly as the last meeting between the two clubs took on epic proportions. Trailing twice during the game, Real fought back to claim a last-gasp winner and prevail 3-2. For their part, pacesetters Barcelona are due at mid-table Osasuna and third-placed Sevilla visit struggling Xerez.

The question: Can Barça take advantage of Real's current troubles to streak further clear at the Liga summit?
The big game: Real Madrid-Getafe, Saturday 31 October, 18:00, Santiago Bernabeu
The quote: "We need to give this team time. Don't forget that it's a new side. Of course, this defeat is very humiliating, but the greatness of our club goes far beyond mere results," Florentino Perez, Real Madrid president.

Serie A: Inter and Juve resume duel
Following on from a round of fixtures in midweek, Inter now boast a healthy four-point advantage over closest pursuers Juventus. Boosted by a fantastic 5-1 triumph against Sampdoria on Wednesday, Juve leapfrogged their opponents into second spot and once again look to be the most realistic challengers to Jose Mourinho's defending champions. This weekend ought to confirm that trend too, with I Nerazzurri travelling to 18th-placed Livorno and I Bianconeri hosting 12th-placed Napoli.

Those looking for a tighter contest in Serie A would be advised to make the trip to the San Siro to watch fifth-placed AC Milan lock horns with the team one rung higher on the ladder, Parma, who jumped four spots thanks to a 2-0 success against Bari last time out. Unbeaten in five games, Leonardo's Milan must now start to show more consistency.

The question: Having suffered three consecutive setbacks, can Roma halt their slide down the table at home against Bologna?
The big game: AC Milan-Parma, Saturday 31 October, 20:45, San Siro
The quote: "It was one of the most amazing moments of my career. Nobody expected us to put in a performance like that against Samp," Gianluigi Buffon, Juventus goalkeeper.

Bundesliga: Tight at the top
Heading into the 11th round of games, the leading four sides in Germany find themselves separated by a mere two points. Top of the pile, Bayer Leverkusen can expect a stern challenge when they take themselves to Schalke, in fourth, while second-placed Hamburg ought to expect an easier 90 minutes at home against Borussia Monchengladbach. As for Werder Bremen, they are scheduled for action at bottom-three outfit Nuremburg.

Eager to lift themselves out of fifth, Bayern Munich will be looking to add to the woes of a Stuttgart side down to 14th and undergoing a crisis of form. Since the season began, the 2006/07 champions have won just one match at home, while losing the last three on their own turf and their last five in all competitions. Time is rapidly running out for their coach, former Bayern defender Markus Babbel.

The question: Will the last remaining unbeaten teams, Leverkusen and Hamburg, manage to extend their runs by another game?
The big game: Schalke-Bayer Leverkusen, Saturday 31 October, 18:30, Veltins Arena
The quote: "It's not possible for every player to be equal. It is up to the coach to introduce a hierarchy," Oliver Kahn, legendary former Bayern Munich goalkeeper.

Ligue 1: Who is in charge?
France's top-flight sides will contest their 12th round of league fixtures this weekend, with the 11th - originally due to be held in midweek - postponed to conserve the players' energies ahead of France's vital 2010 FIFA World Cup™ South Africa play-off with the Republic of Ireland. As it is, the next instalment of matches ought to say much about the real potential of the teams at the top, because the five highest-placed clubs all face genuine tests.

Reigning champions and current leaders Bordeaux welcome second-placed Monaco in a fixture the hosts have managed to win by a single goal for the last four years. In third, Lyon are gearing themselves up for their traditional local derby away against Saint-Etienne, who lie 16th and have not overcome their illustrious neighbours at home since April 1994. Fourth-placed Montpellier travel to take on an Auxerre side that have forced their way up to seventh on the back of five wins and a draw in their last six Ligue encounters. Lastly, Marseille will hope to improve on their present standing of fifth when they host Toulouse and their menacing striker Andre-Pierre Gignac, who has rediscovered his goalscoring touch after more than two barren months.

The question: Only beaten in the last few minutes by Nancy last Saturday, will Grenoble be able to build on that performance and finally clinch their first points of the season at home against Lille?
The big game: Saint-Etienne-Lyon, Saturday 31 October, 21:00, Stade Geoffroy-Guichard
The quote: "People need to calm down. We didn't fall ill on purpose. All the players, and myself more than anyone, wanted to play the derby," Paris Saint-Germain midfielder Ludovic Giuly after last weekend's match at Marseille was called off due an outbreak of swine flu.


In Portugal, the most eye-catching game in the ninth round of encounters brings second-placed Braga up against leaders Benfica. That contest could well play into the hands of Porto, who lie three points shy of the top two and entertain Belenenses.

In the race to close the gap on FC Twente and PSV Eindhoven in the Netherlands, third takes on fourth when Ajax cross swords with old rivals Feyenoord in Amsterdam.

Lastly, in Scotland, second-placed Rangers need to beware Dundee United, who occupy fourth spot and would move level on points with the Glasgow giants if they can see them off at home.