World Leagues preview

The curtain rises on a new season in Australia this weekend, while the drawn-out battle for supremacy in China PR continues. Two sides have one hundred per cent records to maintain in Mexico, and the leaders in Brazil and the USA have work to do if they are to maintain their lofty status. previews the forthcoming action outside Europe.

Brasileirao: Snakes and ladders
Champions for the last three seasons, Sao Paulo hope to continue their recovery from a disastrous start to the season with a fifth straight win against Goias. O Tricolor Paulista have closed to within eight points of leaders Palmeiras.

After trading bottom place with Sport following a handsome 5-1 victory that ended an 11-game winless streak, Fluminense need to collect more points at Vitoria if they are to ease their relegation fears.

Big game: Edu's return from Valencia failed to prevent Corinthians from sliding to a midweek defeat by a Nautico side that had gone 13 games without a win. Still without injured talisman Ronaldo, O Timão have an opportunity to get back on course against Flamengo.
Player to watch: Dagoberto is Sao Paulo's top scorer with five goals so far, four of them in his last three games, a tally he will be keen to augment against high-flying Goias.

Mexican Apertura: Records to defend
Toluca and Pachuca are the only sides to take maximum points from the opening two games of the season, and they will be anxious to maintain their fast start against Pumas and Atlante respectively.

Tigres, recently crowned SuperLiga champions after defeating Chicago Fire on penalties, return to domestic duty with a home game against Jaguares. Elsewhere, Cruz Azul entertain Monterrey, the only side yet to concede a goal.

Big game: Holders Pumas will be out to open their account against an in-form Toluca side boosted by the finishing power of Nestor Calderon, who already has three goals to his name.
Player to watch: Having delayed their start to the season to take part in the Peace Cup in Spain, reigning CONCACAF Champions League kings Atlante get their campaign underway at home to Pachuca. The Iron Colts' new signing Santiago Solari is set for his first taste of Mexican football, following in the footsteps of his brother Esteban, a Pumas player until last season.

American Major League Soccer: Warning signs for the big guns
Despite propping up the Western Conference, San Jose Earthquakes and Dallas caused a stir last weekend with respective defeats of Seattle Sounders and Kansas City Wizards, two supposedly superior sides.

The leaders of both conferences will do well to be wary in the coming weeks, with Eastern frontrunners Columbus Crew keen to collect maximum points against the lowly Earthquakes to protect their one-point advantage over Chicago Fire.

Big game: The Fire, who have a game in hand on Columbus, face Western Conference leaders Houston Dynamo. The men from Chicago go into the game with the disappointment of that SuperLiga final defeat by Tigres still fresh in their minds, while Houston will be keen to bounce back from a shock defeat to fast-improving Dallas on Thursday.
Player to watch: Can Seattle Sounders goalkeeper Kasey Keller recover from conceding four goals in two games running when his side take on Real Salt Lake? The former Leicester City custodian shipped four against the Earthquakes last Sunday and looked on helplessly as Barcelona repeated the trick in a friendly in midweek.

Chinese Super League: Tight at the top
With the season having reached the halfway point, the race for the championship remains as close as ever. Beijing Guo'an are at the front of a tightly-packed bunch of contenders and hold a one-point lead over Shandong Luneng and Henan Jianye, an advantage they will be looking to extend at home to sixth-placed Changsha Ginde.

Big game: Currently lying third, Henan Jianye have been one of the revelations of the season to date. After slipping up against Guanghou Yiyao in the first game after the July break, they have a fresh opportunity to underline their credentials at home to Dalian Haichang, two places below them in fifth.
Players to watch: The leaders will be banking on their Honduran strike pairing of Emil Martinez and Elvis Scott and the goalscoring instinct of Australian Joel Griffiths as they seek three points against Changsha Ginde.

The arrival of former Liverpool icon Robbie Fowler and the return of Socceroo Jason Culina have heightened the sense of anticipation as the Australian A-League makes its reappearance. Reigning champions Melbourne Victory, who broke their transfer record with the acquisition of Costa Rican midfielder Carlos Hernandez, look the team to beat but kicked off their defence with a surprise 2-0 reverse to Central Coast Mariners. New arrivals Gold Coast United, old foes Adelaide United and title-hungry Sydney FC will all be hoping to capitalise on any further slips by the Victory.

There is still everything to play for in Mozambique with eight games remaining. Pacesetters Liga Muculmana had their lead cut to a solitary point following defeat by third-placed Desportivo Maputo in their last outing. Another reverse on a potentially awkward assignment at Ferroviario Beira could open the way for closest pursuers Ferroviario Maputo, who take on Atletico Muculmano. Desportivo are also just a point adrift and could find themselves on top if they defeat relegation-threatened Textafrica Chimoio.