World Leagues preview

The year is drawing to a close and so too are the title races in Argentina and Mexico, with champions set be crowned in both countries this weekend. There is still plenty of ground to be covered in Australia and South Africa, however, and there is a big derby day in store in Algeria. previews the latest round of games in the major leagues outside Europe.

Argentinian Apertura: Title at stake
Exciting finales are the order of the day in Argentina. Last year’s Apertura threw up a three-horse race that went right down to the wire, and the 2009 Clausura was no less thrilling as Velez Sarsfield and Huracan squared off in a final-day decider. Producing all the drama this time around are Banfield and Newell’s Old Boys. El Taladro have a two-point lead going into Sunday’s denouement and can clinch their first-ever league title if they win at Boca Juniors. Newell’s, meanwhile, will be urging Los Xeneizes on when they entertain San Lorenzo in Rosario.

Big game: Back in 2007, Lanus secured their maiden domestic crown at La Bombonera, a feat that their fiercest rivals Banfield could repeat on Sunday when they visit Boca in search of glory.
Player to watch: The two championship contenders owe their lofty positions to a pair of in-form Uruguayan forwards. Banfield’s Santiago Silva leads the national scoring charts with 14 goals in 18 games, while his fellow countryman Antonio Boghossian lies in third place with 11 so far this term for Newell’s.

Australian A-League: Tough assignment for the Victory
Defending champions Melbourne Victory hold a three-point advantage over Sydney FC but will have their work cut out this weekend at Central Coast Mariners, the side who beat them 4-0 on Matchday 14. Two consecutive wins have taken Newcastle Jets up to sixth, a run they will be out to extend at home to third-placed Gold Coast United, who are still well in contention in this their debut season in the top flight.

Big game: Wellington Phoenix equalled Sydney’s record of 14 home games without defeat when they held leaders Melbourne to a draw at the Westpac Stadium a week ago. The New Zealanders can set a new mark on Saturday when high-flying Sydney are their visitors.
Player to watch: Central Coast Mariners goalkeeper Danny Vukovic is having a season to remember and is surely in the thoughts of national team coach Pim Verbeek. Thanks to Vukovic’s agility between the posts, the Mariners have conceded fewer goals than any other team in the league. The question is, can he keep top scorers Victory at bay this weekend?

South African Premiership: Leaders on the charge
Frontrunners Supersport United have a seemingly straightforward assignment at home to rock-bottom Jomo Cosmos on Saturday. With only ten matches remaining, Supersport, who are vying for their third straight title, are seven points clear of their three closest challengers, although second-placed Santos do have a game in hand. With the Cosmos having dished out a surprise 1-0 reverse to Orlando Pirates at the start of the month, however, the men from Pretoria cannot afford to be too complacent.

Big game: Kaizer Chiefs, in third, entertain Bloemfontein Celtic, in seventh, with only four points separating the sides. A win for the visitors would deal a fatal blow to the Chiefs’ lingering title hopes.
Player to watch: Can Mamelodi Sundowns’ Katlego Mphela increase his chart-topping haul of 13 goals for the season against relegation-threatened AmaZulu?

Monterrey hold a narrow advantage in the Mexican Apertura play-off final after edging out Cruz Azul 4-3 in Thursday’s thrilling first leg. Humberto Suazo struck a brace for Los Rayados, who staged a superb comeback after being 3-1 down at half-time, with Sergio Santana also scoring and Emanuel Villa putting through his own net. Villa later made amends at the other end, with Christian Riveros scoring a double for Los Cementeros, who will feel reasonably confident of collecting their ninth championship in Sunday’s return at the Estadio Azul.

There are not one but two derbies in Algeria. Taking top billing is the meeting between second-placed MC Alger and capital rivals Belouizda, who are hovering just above the relegation zone. The hosts are favourites going into the match, thanks in no small part to the return of French coach Francois Bracci, who has restored stability to a team that is only one point off the top with two games in hand. The weekend’s other derby is also an all-Algiers affair, with Hussein Dey taking on USM Alger in a basement battle.

In Iran, pacesetters Sepahan should maintain their grip on the standings when they travel to lowly Mes, while closest pursuers Zob-Ahan, who lie four points behind, are at home to mid-table Teraktor-Sazi.