From kick-off to conclusion

Brazil will sound the starting whistle on its national championship as the trophy is lifted in South Africa this weekend. With the title races down the finishing straight in Morocco and the United Arab Emirates while just beginning to take shape in Korea Republic and the USA, and some intriguing fixtures in Argentina, previews the forthcoming action outside Europe.

Argentinian Clausura: Big games at both ends
Round 13 pits the competition's two form teams together, with leaders Velez Sarsfield hosting a seventh-placed Racing side that, inspired by goalkeeper Pablo Migliore and playmaker Adrian Lucero, has also taken 13 points from their last possible 15. Colon, five points off the pace in fourth, will expect victory at home to San Martin, but third-placed Huracan have a trip to resurgent Estudiantes to contend with.

Fifth-placed River Plate and runners-up Lanus, seven and two points behind Velez respectively, will collide, with Radamel Falcao and Jose Sand likely to have a say in the outcome.

High stakes: One of Argentina's fiercest rivalries will be renewed when sixth-placed Rosario Central and Newell's Old Boys, in tenth, do battle.
Players to watch: Roberto Abbondanzieri will try to help Boca Juniors, just two points off the bottom, arrest a six-game winless run at San Lorenzo, who have taken four points from two games under new coach Diego Simeone to ease their own wooden spoon fears. Forward Gonzalo Bergessio will strive to make the veteran goalkeeper's weekend a miserable one.

Brasileirao: The big kick-off
Nineteen teams stand in the way of Sao Paulo claiming a fourth straight title, and several of them have realistic aspirations. Four contenders, all recently crowned state champions, will face off on the opening matchday, with Cruzeiro hosting Flamengo and Corinthians entertaining Internacional. Goalkeeper Felipe and striker Ronaldo were central to the recent conquest of O Timão, who will try to nullify in-form duo Andres D'Alessandro and Taison.

The experienced Souza will be key to Gremio's hopes of a winning start at home to Santos, who will be hoping Neymar, 17, can underline his vast potential.

High stakes: Without the distraction of the Copa Libertadores, Fluminense are determined to challenge for domestic rule. First up for Conca, Thiago Neves, Fred and Co is a meeting with Sao Paulo, spearheaded by ex-Flu striker Washington.
Players to watch: Emerging Palmeiras striker Keirrison will be out to undo his former club Coritiba, who can count on the invention of the veteran Marcelinho Paraiba.

American Major League Soccer: Strugglers eye success
Reigning champions Columbus Crew will hope Guillermo Barros Schelotto can inspire them to their first victory at the eighth time of asking at home to Kansas City Wizards, for whom Davy Arnaud and Claudio Lopez have been radiating. Last season's runners-up, New York Red Bulls, are also in desperate need of victory. The Eastern Conference tailenders will host Western Conference strugglers San Jose Earthquakes on Friday evening.

Meanwhile, Chivas USA, leaders out west, will welcome Real Salt Lake, three places and nine points beneath them, to California.

High stakes: Eastern Conference leaders DC United will entertain Toronto FC, just one point behind them in second.
Players to watch: Oswaldo Alonso has been central to the Seattle Sounders' impressive start, while Landon Donovan has starred despite the poor form of Los Angeles Galaxy.

Korean K-League: Stern test for leaders
Unbeaten and having scored almost 2.6 goals per-game on average, Jeonbuk Motors take a one-point lead into Round 8. Eninho, Choi Tae-Uk, Lee Dong Gook et al nevertheless face a stern challenge at home to third-placed FC Seoul, whose line is led by Montenegrin stand-out Dejan Damjanovic.

Runners-up Gwangju Sangmu, just a point off the summit and with Kim Meung-Jung in arresting form, will visit defending champions Samsung Bluewings, who hover just one point above the foot. Elsewhere, record seven-time K-League champions Seongnam Chunma, in fifth, will entertain Busan I'Park.

High stakes: Fourth-placed Incheon United are eager to maintain their charge, while victory could move their hosts, Ulsan Horang-I, as high as fifth.
Players to watch: The prolificacy of Adriano Chuva has taken Chunnam Dragons up to sixth. As they prepare to welcome the Brazilian No10, struggling Daegu desperately need Jang Nam-Suk to rediscover his scoring touch.

South African Premiership: United or Pirates?
An engrossing race will go down to the wire on Saturday, but does ecstasy await SuperSport United or Orlando Pirates? United hold the statistical edge: their two-point lead and vastly superior goal difference means a draw will effectively seal the defence of their crown.

However, Anthony Laffor and team-mates have a towering last hurdle to climb: not only are they on their travels, but they must face a Santos side who beat them in the reverse fixture and are coming off a 3-0 win away to third-placed Kaizer Chiefs. By contrast, Teko Modise and the rest of the Pirates crew will be heavy favourites at home to Amazulu, winless in three games.

High stakes: Maritzburg United, Bloemfontein Celtic and Thanda Royal Zulu have 35, 33 and 32 points respectively. TRZ currently occupy the penultimate position, which would force them into a play-off to preserve their top-flight status, but would avoid this fate with victory over Maritzburg.
Players to watch: Bloemfontein will look to Gert Schalkwyk as they go in search of the point that would condemn either Thanda or Maritzburg to a relegation play-off. However, their hosts Free State Stars, led by the exciting Sthembiso Ngcobo, will likely need victory to guarantee a fourth-place finish.

Two teams remain in contention to win the UAE League and, consequently, qualify for this year's FIFA Club World Cup. Both are away this weekend, but the leaders appear to have the significantly tougher assignment. Indeed, Al Ahly, three points clear, visit third-placed Al Ain, the record nine-time champions. For their part, second-placed Al Jazira, coached by Abel Braga, the man who masterminded Internacional's Japan 2006 triumph, face mid-table Al Nasr.

Moroccan Botola pacesetters Raja Casablanca are under pressure with four rounds remaining. They lost at home to local rivals WAC Casablanca last time out, and now face an examining trip to 2007 champions Olympique Khouribga. Holders FAR Rabat, six points adrift in second, visit mid-table Hassania Agadir, while a buoyant WAC, one point further back but with a game in hand, host second-bottom Jeunesse Massira.