Domestic duty calls

Following the latest round of continental club engagements, teams around the globe are turning their attention back to domestic affairs. For the likes of Lanus, pressing league commitments offer a chance to put their midweek woes behind them, while others will be hoping to keep the good times rolling.

Argentinian Clausura: Lanus lick their wounds
Second-placed Velez Sarsfield face a difficult trip to Rosario Central, who have secured back-to-back wins following the arrival of new coach Reinaldo Mostaza Merlo, one of them a surprise 5-0 defeat of Arsenal. Central need the points to continue their climb away from the drop zone, while Velez's aim is to keep the pressure on leaders Lanus.

Lying in an unaccustomed mid-table position, Boca Juniors cannot afford to let more points slip from their grasp when they travel to Tigre, who have chalked up two straight wins after a poor start. The duo last met in the three-team play-off that decided the destiny of the Apertura title. Boca lost 1-0 on that occasion, but still managed to take the championship.

Big game: Lanus's Copa Libertadores challenge is all but over after defeat to Everton in midweek, leaving them to concentrate on the task of defending their lead at the top of the Clausura when they travel to Huracan, who lie fifth and have been producing some delightful football under coach Angel Cappa. A win for Cappa's side would take them to within two points of the leaders.
Player to watch: Racing Club's Pablo Luguercio is sure to have quite a day when he returns to his beloved Estudiantes, the club where he started his career. Now 27, El Payasito (The Little Clown) has become something of a cult figure for the Racing faithful, although more for his commitment and determination than for his goals, having scored only one so far this season. He will be out to improve that record in La Plata on Sunday, where he will need to put his lifelong allegiance to the Pincharrata cause to one side to help his side clamber out of relegation trouble.

Brazilian State Championships: A star is born
After coming off the bench in the week to score his first goal for Gremio in a 6-1 win over Sao Jose that kept them at the top of their group in the Campeonato Gaucho, Argentinian forward Maxi Lopez could earn a place in the starting line-up for Sunday's trip to Ulbra.

Baiano state frontrunners Vitoria defend their lead away to Bahia, who lie second just three points behind their arch-rivals. Bahia will need to be on guard at the back. Their guests on Sunday have scored 41 goals in 15 games, the highest return in all the state championships.

Big game: The weekend's headline act is the Taca Rio duel at the Maracana, between Group A leaders Flamengo and their Group B counterparts Vasco de Gama. The two sides have impressive unbeaten records to defend, with Dorival Junior's side having gone ten games without defeat since the start of the season (their best run for 18 months), while O Mengão have not lost to Vasco for nearly two years.
Player to watch: A new sensation has emerged on the Brazilian scene. Dubbed the new Robinho, the 17-year-old Neymar has scored in his two starts for Santos - a league match with Mogi Mirim and a Brazilian Cup tie against Rio Branco. The young sharpshooter is poised to continue his education against Corinthians on Sunday, where he could learn a trick or two from the old master Ronaldo.

Mexican Clausura: America-Pumas tops the bill
Toluca will hope to maintain their sizeable lead in Group 3 when they entertain a Cruz Azul side still smarting from a 2-0 reverse by Puerto Rico Islanders in the first leg of their CONCACAF Champions League semi-final. Atlante went down 2-1 to Santos Laguna in the other semi-final first leg, and will be aiming to bounce back and improve on their lowly position in Group 1 when they take on Puebla. Santos have domestic troubles of their own and need to take something from their trip to Monarcas.

Big game: Few Mexican derbies generate as much passion as America-Pumas. The hosts need a win on Sunday to cut the gap on their opponents, who are four points clear in a hotly contested Group 2.
Player to watch: Two weeks after making his return to Mexico, Omar Bravo has yet to contribute a goal to Tigres's bid to escape the relegation mire. The international striker's next opportunity to score comes against Guadalajara on Saturday.

J.League: Gamba hungry for more
Having made a fine start to the season by taking maximum points from their first two league games and securing a brace of important wins in the AFC Champions League, Gamba Osaka travel to Kyoto Purple Sanga to defend their position at the top of the table. Buoyed by an international midweek win of their own, reigning champions Kashima Antlers have a chance to improve their position at home to Sanfrecce Hiroshima.

Big game: After losing to the champions in their opening game and putting three past FC Tokyo last week, Urawa Red Diamonds take on struggling Jubilo Iwata, who lie bottom after two heavy defeats.
Player to watch: Brazilian goal-getter Leandro scored a hat-trick in Gamba's big win over Korea Republic's FC Seoul in the week. Can the Brazilian get among the goals again on Sunday and overtake compatriots and current top scorers, Pedro Junior of Niigata and Gilsinho of Jubilo Iwata?

American Major League Soccer
returned this week, although with slightly less in the way of glamour after David Beckham faced down opposition from Los Angeles Galaxy to extend his loan stay at AC Milan. Defending champions Columbus Crew begin the defence of their crown with a trip to Houston Dynamo on Saturday, while last season's runners-up New York Red Bulls made a faltering start to their campaign on Thursday, going down 3-0 to new boys Seattle Sounders.

Reigning champions Ferroviario Maputo have made a strong start to the new season, winning their opening two games to stand top of the Mozambican Moçambola. The holders go in search of win number three against Textafrica Chimoio this weekend, although second-placed Liga Muculmana can go top if they beat Lichinga at home and Ferroviario drop points.

Tottenham Hotspur-Chelsea, Roma-Juventus and FC Dallas-Chicago Fire are among the matches on the FIFA World Leagues Predictor's Round 28 menu. If you haven't already, be sure to sign up and take a shot at winning this weekend's prize.