Passion up on Valentine's weekend
Partners of football followers could well find themselves competing for attention with the beautiful game this Valentine's weekend, when an enticing array of matches will take place across Europe. There is tension at the top in France, a double duel between the cities of Barcelona and Seville in Spain, a huge derbies in Italy and Scotland, top-of-the-table confrontations in Germany and exciting FA Cup ties in England. FIFA.com takes a closer look.
La Liga: A tale of two cities
Last week was the Seville derby, while next weekend is the encounter between Barcelona's two rival clubs. Meeting in the middle is a two-way head-to-head between Andalusian and Catalan outfits that is sure to have pulses racing across Spain. Runaway leaders Barcelona will chase an 11th consecutive win when they visit 14th-placed Real Betis, who have renewed confidence after the January return of fans' favourite Ricardo Oliveira. The Brazilian kicked off his second spell at the club in the best possible way, scoring the winner in a 2-1 derby win at the Estadio Sanchez Pizjuan. The next day, third-placed Sevilla go to Catalonia to take on relegation-threatened Espanyol.
In spite of a run of seven victories in a row, second-placed Real Madrid are still no closer to catching their fierce rivals. To keep their slim title hopes alive, Juande Ramos's side must come away from their visit to Sporting Gijon with all three points. In the race for UEFA Champions League spots, Valencia, Villarreal and Atletico Madrid - fourth, fifth and sixth respectively - all face tough opponents in Malaga, Racing Santander and Getafe.
The question: Currently Real Madrid's all-time joint-leading scorer alongside Alfredo di Stefano, can Raul strike out alone by scoring his 308th competitive goal for Los Blancos in Gijon?
The big game: Real Betis-Barcelona, Saturday 14 February, 20.00 CET, Estadio Manuel Ruiz de Lopera
The quote: "We realised that we were responsible and to blame for the coach being sacked. When I see [Javier] Aguirre I'll apologise to him," Atletico Madrid defender Mariano Pernia.
Serie A: Derby day in Milan
All eyes in Italian football will be focused on Milan this Sunday, for the 270th derby match between city rivals Inter and AC. Jose Mourinho's Nerazzurri, currently top of the Serie A pile, know that a victory in the latest edition of the derby would deal a near-fatal blow to their neighbours' title hopes. An 'away' win for the Rossoneri, on the other hand, would bring them within five points of the reigning champions.
Squeezed between the Milanese giants, seven points behind Inter and one ahead of Milan, are Juventus, who host 15th-placed Sampdoria. Vincenzo Iaquinta's suspension could facilitate a return to action for David Trezeguet after a lengthy absence through injury. Tucked in behind the three heavyweights are another trio competing fiercely for one of the four available Champions League berths. The match between fifth-placed Genoa and Fiorentina, in fourth, also throws up a shootout between two of the division's hottest forwards in Diego Milito and Alberto Gilardino. Roma, who have risen rapidly into sixth after being as far back as 17th, will be keen to continue their upward momentum when they travel to Bergamo to meet Atalanta, who recently upset the mighty Inter.
The question: Out through injury since the start of the season, will AC Milan defender Alessandro Nesta be part of the squad for the game against Inter?
The big game: Inter Milan-AC Milan, Sunday 15 February, 20.30 CET, Stadio Giuseppe Meazza
The quote: "Julio Cesar is one of the best keepers in the world, but the derby will be decided by the likes of Ronaldinho and [Zlatan] Ibrahimovic and not by us goalkeepers," AC Milan goalkeeper Christian Abbiati.
Ligue 1: Lyon under pressure
The love story between Lyon and the Stade de Gerland faithful has been a little lacking in spark recently, with the reigning French champions having failed to win at home since 16 November last year. On the back of four consecutive home draws, Claude Puel's men will be determined to put on a show for their faithful against bottom side Le Havre. Should Les Gones slip up, runners-up Bordeaux and third-placed Paris Saint-Germain could both move within a point of top spot with home wins over Grenoble and Saint-Etienne respectively.
Firmly back in the title race after their win over Les Girondins, fourth-placed Marseille travel to tenth-placed Monaco's Stade Louis II - a venue OM have enjoyed visiting in recent years. Just behind the big boys in fifth, sixth and seventh respectively are Toulouse, Lille and Rennes. Le Téfécé and LOSC are both away to Ligue 1 strugglers, in the shape of Sochaux and Auxerre, while Rennes host mid-table Nancy.
The question: Having won on their last two visits to the Principality, can Marseille make it three in a row?
The big game: Paris Saint-Germain-Saint-Etienne, Saturday 14 February, 21.00 CET, Parc des Princes
The quote: "I'm hoping to be able to win the title with Girondins and help the club qualify for next year's Champions League. I'd also love to score loads more goals than last season. Around twenty would be nice," Bordeaux striker Fernando Cavenaghi.
Bundesliga: Bayern give chase
As their record haul of 21 Bundesliga crowns suggests, Bayern Munich are rarely off the top spot in Germany for long. Which is what makes newly-promoted Hoffenheim's achievement in storming into first place several months ago, and staying there, so remarkable. Bayern, lying one point behind their title rivals, visit another of this season's surprise high-flyers, third-placed Hertha Berlin. Nor will the leaders have it all their own way when they host Bayer Leverkusen, currently in fifth and just six points off the pace.
Hamburg, in fourth, are another side still in the race and, after surrendering a two-goal lead to go down 3-2 a Karlsruhe last weekend, they will be determined to take all three points at home to Arminia Bielefeld. Werder Bremen, back in tenth and without the suspended Diego, are in dire need of a positive result against bottom side Borussia Monchengladbach if they wish to save the job of coach Thomas Schaaf - on the receiving end of the dreaded vote of confidence this week.
The question: Yet to score since returning from the winter break, Bayern's Italian forward Luca Toni did not react well to his substitution against Borussia Dortmund last week. Will the Azzurri international rediscover his smile and the way to goal in Berlin?
The big game: Hertha Berlin-Bayern Munich, Saturday 14 February, 15.30 CET, Olympiastadion
The quote: "It's only a matter of time before we take top spot. We're right on Hoffenheim's heels and we're not going to give them any respite," Bayern coach Jurgen Klinsmann.
The game between Portsmouth and Manchester City aside, the Premier League has ceded centre stage to the FA Cup this weekend. Everton-Aston Villa, West Ham United-Middlesbrough and Sheffield United-Hull City are among the highlights of the fifth round of the competition, while Chelsea's trip to Watford also catches the eye. Not just because it will mark Guus Hiddink's first match in charge, but midfielder Frank Lampard will also encounter his father, Frank Lampard Senior, who is on the coaching staff at the Hornets.
And finally to Scotland, where passions are sure to run high in the 382nd edition of Glasgow's Old Firm derby. If you can not be in Celtic Park to experience the unique atmosphere first-hand, FIFA.com is here to save the day with all you need to know about this legendary fixture. Just click on the link on the right.
Inter Milan-AC Milan, Hertha Berlin-Bayern Munich and Celtic-Rangers are among the matches on the FIFA World Leagues Predictor's Round 23 menu. If you haven't already, be sure to sign up and take a shot at winning this weekend's prize.