It’s Round 1 in Argentina and Australia, first versus second in Japan and Korea Republic, and two group leaders meeting in Mexico. With the campaigns well underway in Brazil and the USA, FIFA.com previews this weekend’s forthcoming action.
Argentinian Apertura: New-look teams set for kick-off
Argentinian clubs have made a record number of signings during the close season, which has enhanced the title race's unpredictability in a country that has crowned eight different champions in its last eight campaigns. The last two, Argentinos Junior and Huracan, will square off on Matchday 1, while last term’s runners-up Estudiantes travel to Newell’s Old Boys.
Boca Juniors are expected to field an entirely new defence at a Godoy Cruz team who finished third in the recent Clausura, as Velez Sarsfield and Independiente meet in a clash of sides with realistic trophy aspirations.
High stakes: River Plate will host Tigre in a battle of teams concerned by the threat of relegation. With Juan Pablo Carrizo back between the Millonarios sticks, they will be banking on a decidedly better outcome than the 5-1 defeat they suffered in this fixture on the final day of the Clausura.
Players to watch: Elegant attacker Giovanni Moreno recently joined Racing Club under a cloud of hype. No-nonsense centre-back Eduardo Dominguez will strive to give the Colombia ace a harsh welcome to Argentinian football and help All Boys hit the ground running on their top-flight debut.
Brasileirao: Fluzão, Timão continue leadership scrap
Frontrunners Fluminense will charge an Emerson-Washington frontline with taking care of business at third-bottom Gremio, and also hope their fiercest rivals can do them a favour: Flamengo, in eighth, tackle second-placed Corinthians, who are likely to employ a three-pronged attack of Dentinho, Iarley and Jorge Henrique in the match between Brazil’s two most popular clubs.
After their Copa Libertadores dream ended last night, Sao Paulo are determined to challenge for the domestic title. Next up for O Tricolor Paulista, who are 11 points off the pace in ninth, is a journey to Atletico Paranaense.
High stakes: Mid-table Palmeiras will go in search of their first victory in five attempts – and maiden victory since the return of Luiz Felipe Scolari – at fourth-bottom Goias, who are winless in five matches.
Players to watch: Argentinian forward Federico Nieto is in line for his Atletico Paranaense bow at home to Sao Paulo, who will entrust Ricardo Oliveira with easing the pain of Libertadores elimination.
Mexican Apertura: Sharpshooters set for Round 3
Goalkeeper Oswaldo Sanchez and playmaker Daniel Luduena have helped Santos Laguna make the most impressive start to the new season, but the Group 1 leaders face a stern examination at their Group 2 counterparts Pachuca, who boast the on-song Edgar Benitez.
Cruz Azul and Queretaro, level on six points from two rounds at the tip of Group 3, will visit Pumas and Monarcas respectively, while Tigres and America, both on three points, will square off.
High stakes: Atlas and Necaxa will both seek their first victory at the Estadio Jalisco.
Players to watch: Jaguares forward Danilinho and Hector Mancilla of recent Bicentenario winners Toluca will attempt to fire their sides on to four points.
Major League Soccer: Attention on prodigies and veterans
Chicago Fire and New York Red Bulls, fourth and second respectively in the Eastern Conference, will collide on Monday, with Rafael Marquez likely to debut for the visitors and Freddie Ljungberg in line for his first start in red. Beforehand, Toronto FC, positioned in between the aforementioned sides, will entertain Western Conference tailenders Chivas USA.
FC Dallas, third in the west, will hope in-form 20-year-old Brek Shea can help them make it eight matches unbeaten at home to a Philadelphia Union outfit sat sixth in the east.
High stakes: Colorado Rapids are just a point inside the play-off qualification zone. Their upcoming opponents San Jose Earthquakes are outside of it by the narrowest of margins.
Players to watch: Kansas City Wizards, fifth in the east, will entrust 20-year-old forward Teal Bunbury, who has hit the only goal in two of their last three games, with downing the Robbie Findley-spearheaded Real Salt Lake, who are second in the opposite section.
K-League: First versus second
Just six points separate the top six heading into the second half of the regular season, which will begin with leaders FC Seoul, for whom Dejan Damjanovic has been in prolific form, taking on a second-placed Jeonbuk Motors team fronted by Lee Dong-Gook, last season’s leading marksman who was on target for a K-League XI in a 5-2 defeat by Barcelona in midweek.
Choi Sung-Kuk was the hosts’ other scorer against Barça. The lively attacker will now strive to ease Gwangju Sangmu’s relegation worries at third-placed Jeju United. Seongnam Ilhwa, in fifth, travel to struggling giants Pohang Steelers.
High stakes: Busan I’Park, one place and five points outside the play-off places, welcome fourth-placed Gyeongnam.
Players to watch: Will Pohang No10 Mota emerge a victor against his former club, or will the day belong to Seongnam’s own South American ace, Mauricio Molina?
Sydney FC face the Melbourne Victory team they beat in last year’s Grand Final - and succeeded as champions - in their A-League opener on Saturday. Influential midfielder Nicky Carle has since boosted the Sky Blues’ squad, while the Victory have retained stand-outs Carlos Hernandez and Archie Thompson. Gold Coast United and Brisbane Roar will complete the Round 1 programme one day later.
J.League pacesetters Kashima Antlers visit their nearest rivals Shimizu S-Pulse, who have struck 12 goals in their last three outings, as Nagoya Grampus, two points off the summit in third, unleash Joshua Kennedy, the competition’s leading marksman, on mid-table FC Tokyo.