Rivalry replaces unity

Football followers within Argentina, Brazil, Japan, Nigeria and the USA were temporarily united recently. With 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa™ qualifying back in recess, however, they will resume domestic rivalries this weekend.

Argentinian Apertura: Battle at La Bombonera
Independiente will attempt to stay unbeaten, end the competition's only 100 per cent record and win at Boca Juniors in the Apertura for the first time since 1996 on Sunday. Daniel Montenegro and Leonel Nunez will lead the Roja attack, while goalkeeper Fabian Assmann will strive to shut out 21-year-old goal-getter Lucas Viatri at the Bombonera.

The attention will be on two diminutive, exciting, 20-year-old playmakers over in Sarandi, with Arsenal's Alejandro Gomez and Diego Buononotte of River Plate capable of swinging their Matchday 5 contest.

Big game: Colon, one point behind Boca in second, will be out to extend their undefeated start at Banfield, who would move into contention with victory.
Players to watch: Six goals from Jose Sand has inspired Lanus up to fourth. He will, nevertheless, encounter a goalkeeper at the top of his game in the shape of Newell's Old Boys' German Caffa.

Brasileirao: Contenders collide
This weekend's fixture list hardly inspires optimism among the quintet of teams with realistic aspirations of catching Gremio. Four of them will square off, while the leaders will host mid-table Goias.

Runners-up Cruzeiro and Palmeiras, both six points off the pace, will do battle without their respective top scorers, Guilherme and Alex Mineiro, and sixth-placed Sao Paulo will entertain Flamengo, one place above them. Marcelinho Paraiba will carry O Mengão's chief goal threat, although finding a way past Rogerio Ceni is a perennial challenge.

Big game: Santos and Fluminense will be eager to avoid the punishment for defeat at the Vila Belmiro: a place in the relegation zone.
Players to watch: Botafogo will trust Jorge Henrique, Gil and Wellington Paulista with elevating them from fourth position, while the menacing trident of Andres D'Alessandro, Alex and Nilmar will be central to Internacional's chances of success in Rio de Janeiro.

American Major League Soccer: Tight out east
Just five points separate second-placed Real Salt Lake with Los Angeles Galaxy, seventh and last in the Eastern Conference, with seven rounds of the play-off race remaining. Coach Bruce Arena will have David Beckham and Landon Donovan back from international duty as the Galaxy attempt to arrest a club record 11-game winless streak at Kansas City Wizards, who prop up the Western Conference.

San Jose Earthquakes, fourth in the east, will trust Darren Huckerby to undo section leaders Houston Dynamo, while Real Salt Lake visit New York Red Bulls.
Big game: Toronto require points to revive their play-off hopes, but seizing them at home to Western Conference frontrunners Columbus Crew will be no easy assignment.
Players to watch: DC United's Marcelo Gallardo will be keen to make up for time spent injured on the sidelines against FC Dallas, who boast the tournament's second-highest marksman Kenny Cooper.

Japanese J.League: Top six lock horns
A mere two points separate first and fifth going into the competition's most decisive round to date. Nagoya Grampus Eight won their last three games by a single goal to assume leadership, but protecting this will be tough at a Gamba Osaka side desperate to end a five-game winless run that has caused them to freefall eight points off the pace.

Runners-up Kashima Antlers will hope the competition's leading marksman, Marquinhos, can fire them past fifth-placed Kawasaki Frontale, who have a potent threat of their own in the shape of Korea DPR forward Jong Tae-Se.

Big game:
Urawa Red Diamonds and Oita Trinita will enter their contest tied on points, one shy of the pacesetters. Can the reigning Asian champions improve their title chances, or will their visitors make it 11 matches unbeaten?
Players to watch: The prolific Davi will be charged with shooting Consadole Sapporo to their first win in eight matches, which could move them off the bottom, while the in-form Shinji Okazaki will strive to ease Shimuzu S-Pulse's relegation fears.

Nigerian Premier League: The big kick-off
It is an exciting time to be a Nigerian football follower. The Golden Eaglets won last year's FIFA U-17 World Cup, the Dream Team IV recently reached the Men's Olympic Football Tournament final, and the Super Eagles have taken South Africa 2010 qualifying by storm. Now the country's domestic league will take its turn to charm.

Top-flight newcomers Gateway and Warri Wolves will kick off the campaign on Saturday, one day before another promoted side, Kaduna United, host reigning champions Kano Pillars. Meantime Kadiri Ikhana, who led the Pillars to their maiden crown, will begin his reign as Sharks coach at Gombe United.

Big game: Last season's runners-up Heartland will welcome the remaining promoted team FC Abuja to Owerri.
Player to watch: Niger Tornadoes' stand-out signing and former Nigeria midfielder Duke Udi will be keen to mark his debut with a win at Bayelsa United, who came third in the 2007/08 campaign.

Liverpool-Manchester United, Borussia Dortmund-Schalke and Pachuca-Guadalajara are among the matches on the FIFA World Leagues Predictor's Round 4 menu. If you haven't already, be sure to click on the link to the right and take a shot at winning this weekend's prize.