November in Europe may only be a third of the way into the league season, but it is often a time when the leading sides begin to distance themselves from the rest of the pack. Adding extra spice this autumn is a fixture list that has thrown up a handful of top-billing encounters as well as clashes between fierce local rivals.
The coming weekend brings derbies in Madrid and Rome, and games in Paris and Liverpool that hark back to some classic encounters of the past. FIFA.com previews the weekend action in Europe’s five biggest leagues.
Premier League: Sweet memories for Liverpool and Newcastle
Not so very long ago, Liverpool and Chelsea served up a string of pulsating clashes in the latter stages of the UEFA Champions League. The Reds meet the Blues on Sunday, but the circumstances have changed dramatically, at least for one of the teams. Whereas Chelsea are marching clear at the top of the table, Liverpool are way off the pace. A win at Anfield for Roy Hodgson’s men would be more than just a timely fillip.
Promoted Newcastle United are another club with a glorious past, and the men in black and white have made an encouraging return to the top flight. The Magpies visit second-placed Arsenal in search of a third league win on the run, although it looks a very big ask on paper. The Manchester clubs are favourites to win this weekend, as United entertain struggling Wolverhampton Wanderers, and City travel to promoted West Bromwich Albion.
The question: City have lost three on the trot in all competitions, but can they bounce back away to the side flying high in sixth?
The big game: Liverpool-Chelsea, Sunday 17.00, Anfield
The quote: "He has huge ability and he’s still quick. All in all, he’s in the best form of his career," Chelsea manager Carlo Ancelotti on striker Nicolas Anelka.
La Liga: All eyes on Madrid
With all due respect to their opponents, Real Madrid have yet to face a truly stern test of their credentials in domestic competition, but all that is about to change. The leaders are in derby action at home to sixth-placed Atletico, who may be without superstar Diego Forlan with injury. The game should provide useful pointers as to the progress made by Jose Mourinho in forming a unit from his glittering collection of individuals.
Champions Barcelona, who have already beaten Atletico and are currently a point off Real in second, also visit Madrid for the meeting with suburban outfit Getafe. Elsewhere, Sevilla face Valencia in a clash between clubs whose mid-table positions have yet to match their lofty ambitions.
The question: Atletico last beat Madrid in 1999 under Claudio Ranieri. Can the leaders maintain their 11-year unbeaten streak in the fixture?
The big game: Real Madrid-Atletico Madrid, Sunday 21.00, Santiago Bernabeu
The quote: "This squad is phenomenal – and so is the coach. But to win, we have to stick together," Real Madrid defender Pepe.
Serie A: Star name missing from Rome derby
Even in a city of glitterati, VIPs and towering celebrities, Rome native Francesco Totti ranks as one of the most recognisable personalities around. But when leaders Lazio meet Roma on Sunday in the eagerly-awaited Rome derby, the attacking legend will not be out on the field. Even without their suspended captain and talisman, I Giallorossi will be desperate to hand their unloved neighbours a first defeat in five matches.
The clubs directly behind Lazio in the standings appear to have winnable games. Inter are plagued by injuries at present but should still prove too strong for promoted Brescia, while AC Milan travel to tail-enders Bari. Juventus also start as favourites at home to third from bottom Cesena.
The question: Both Rome clubs are undefeated at their shared Olympic Stadium home this season. Is that set to change for one of them this weekend?
The big game: Lazio-Roma, Sunday 15.00, Stadio Olimpico
The quote: "I’m gutted about missing the game, it’s the one I look forward to the most. But Lazio will definitely win now," Roma captain Francesco Totti in dryly humorous mood.
Ligue 1: PSG aim to upset champions OM
Prestige as well as points are at stake when the top clubs from the biggest cities in France come to blows. Seventh-placed Paris Saint-Germain entertain Marseille, with the champions currently in third and keen to extend a nine-match unbeaten run in the league.
The men from the south are hoping for a helping hand from a former arch-rival. Fallen giants Lyon travel to second-placed Rennes, desperately searching for points to take them closer to the leading group. Stade Brest, back in the top flight for the first time since 1991 and currently top of the pile, will attempt to defend top spot away to Lille.
The question: PSG last beat L'OM at home in November 2004. Is it time for their luck to change?
The big game: Paris Saint-Germain-Marseille, Sunday 21.00, Parc des Princes
The quote: "We know all about how hard it is when you’re down at the bottom. That’s why we’re working so hard to stay up at the top," Stade Brest midfielder Bruno Grougi.
Bundesliga: Troubled big names seek to ease pressure
After last week’s impressive victory over Mainz, new leaders Borussia Dortmund are hoping to cement their grip on top spot. Jurgen Klopp’s young team travel to Hannover seeking to extend a ten-match unbeaten run in the Bundesliga. Toppled leaders Mainz travel to Freiburg in search of three points to keep up the pressure, or potentially even regain first place.
Fast-improving Bayern Munich are still ten points off Dortmund and cannot afford a slip-up away to bottom club Borussia Monchengladbach. Nothing but a win at home to St. Pauli will do for crisis club Schalke, who are still deep in the relegation mire, while the VfB Stuttgart-Werder Bremen clash is the meeting of two clubs who are also badly lagging their own expectations.
The question: Monchengladbach have not won in eight league games, conceding 26 goals in the process. Can the giants of the 1970s turn the corner when the nation’s biggest club come to visit?
The big game: Hannover-Borussia Dortmund, Sunday 15.30, AWD Arena
The quote: "If the whole circus now decamps to Dortmund, we won’t be upset. In any case, it’ll never affect our work here," Mainz coach Thomas Tuchel.
The season is approaching its climax in Russia. On Monday evening, champions Rubin Kazan face Spartak Moscow, seeking to move to within three points of leaders Zenit St Petersburg. Zenit can repair any damage to their lead two days later when they meet CSKA Moscow in a rearranged fixture.
The standings in Turkey have a distinctly unusual look to them at the moment, as none of the Istanbul clubs is among the top three. Champions Bursaspor, who visit Antalyaspor, are unbeaten this term and lead the table, with second-placed Trabzonspor looking to confirm the rise of the provincial clubs in the big game against Galatasaray.