European Leagues preview
Players have hardly stopped running in Europe since the start of the new season. Tucked in between the midweek domestic outings and next week's second instalment of continental encounters, another round of league games means they must maintain their focus this weekend too. FIFA.com looks ahead to the forthcoming action.
Premier League: Away tests for top two
Leaders Chelsea will strive to make it seven wins from seven at 15th-placed Wigan Athletic, while closest challengers Manchester United travel to a Stoke City side that ran the Blues close a few weeks back. Liverpool and Arsenal have, at least on paper, more comfortable assignments, with the third-placed Reds hosting second-bottom Hull City and the Gunners visiting 14th-placed Fulham.
The task for Manchester City and Tottenham Hotspur, fourth and sixth respectively, will be to put their derby losses to United and Chelsea behind them by collecting home wins, which for City will mean downing West Ham United and for Spurs overcoming Burnley. Without a single point to their name, Portsmouth will be hoping for a turnaround in fortunes at home to Everton, who have recovered from their poor start to record four successes in five games in all competitions.
The question: Will Chelsea be able to secure a 12th straight Premier League triumph and leave Arsenal's record of 14 (between February and August 2002) in greater danger than ever?
The big game: Stoke City-Manchester United, Saturday 15.00, Britannia Stadium
The quote: "There are always sceptics, but we believe we have the quality and strength to get ourselves out of this situation," Danny Webber, Portsmouth forward.
La Liga: Barça and Real refusing to budge
Not satisfied with winning all their matches since the start of the season, Barcelona and Real Madrid have been swapping the top two spots based on how many goals they score each time they play. The Catalan giants took over at the summit in midweek, but could find their trip to 16th-placed Malaga more taxing than Los Merengues's game at home to tenth-placed Tenerife. While both pacesetters are favourites to win, though, it is far more difficult to predict who will prevail when Athletic Bilbao, in fourth, entertain Sevilla, who lie just one place higher thanks to a superior goal difference.
Villarreal and Atletico Madrid have spent plenty of time in the upper reaches of the standings in recent years, but both have experienced poor starts to 2009/10 and find themselves 18th and 19th respectively. The misery could be about to continue, too, with the Yellow Submarines in action at seventh-placed Deportivo and Los Colchoneros travelling to face Valencia, in sixth. The situation is beginning to look critical for Xerex as well, the promoted side still chasing their first point and scheduled to appear at ninth-placed Espanyol.
The question: Cristiano Ronaldo, Lionel Messi and David Villa have all struck five goals in four games. Will they prove prolific again this weekend?
The big game: Athletic Bilbao-Sevilla, Saturday 18.00, Estadio San Mames
The quote: "I'm going to do everything to turn the current situation around. I'm not thinking about my future; I'll continue looking for solutions for the team," Abel Resino, Atletico Madrid coach.
Bundesliga: Tension at the top
Third at present, Bayern Munich could lift themselves to the Bundesliga summit for the first time since May 2008 this weekend, provided they can triumph away to current leaders Hamburg. Louis van Gaal's troops are the side in form, having been imperious ever since their 2-1 loss at Mainz on 22 August, while Hamburg have wilted after racing out of the blocks with their best ever start. The game is sure to have special resonance for Brazilian midfielder Ze Roberto, who left Bayern for HSV this summer, with Belgian centre-back Daniel van Buyten having made the opposite journey in 2006. Should Bayern win, however, they must also hope that second-placed Bayer Leverkusen slip up at struggling Cologne to take over at the top.
The weekend's other much-anticipated fixture involves traditional local rivals as opposed to genuine title contenders, with the 75th edition of the Ruhr derby set to pit Felix Magath's ambitious Schalke against a Borussia Dortmund team anxious to recapture former glory. In the danger zone, Hertha Berlin continue to prop up the table and have already been knocked out of the German Cup, as under-pressure coach Lucien Favre sets out to halt the slide at fourth-placed Hoffenheim, who have begun the season in the same sparkling form as last year.
The question: As the division's only unbeaten team along with Hamburg and Bayer, will Eintracht Frankfurt be able to preserve their record against Stuttgart?
The big game: Hamburg-Bayern Munich, Saturday 18.30, HSH Nordbank Arena
The quote: "When you play six matches, score goals and then get replaced, you have to wonder why. I was bought to score goals and being a substitute worries me," Mario Gomez, Bayern Munich striker.
Serie A: Juve confident, Inter wary
Superb on Wednesday as they defeated Napoli 3-1, thanks largely to new strike partners Diego Milito and Samuel Eto'o, leaders Inter Milan face a tricky test at third-placed Sampdoria, who led the way until their midweek loss to Fiorentina. Sandwiched between that pairing, second-placed Juventus drew 2-2 at Genoa on Thursday and will be anxious for maximum points at home to Bologna, whose attack features former Bianconeri marksmen Marco Di Vaio and Marcelo Zalayeta.
Lower down the table, 11th-placed AC Milan cannot afford another damaging reverse at home against promoted outfit Bari. Beaten at Udinese on Wednesday, Leonardo's charges need to reassure supporters and keep in touch with the heavyweights higher up the standings. Still only ninth, Roma are also desperate to climb up the table, though they have been improving ever since Claudio Ranieri took over and will be confident of registering another success at 18th-placed Catania.
The question: Antonio Conte masterminded Atalanta's first point in his first match as coach, but can he oversee their first victory of the campaign against Chievo?
The big game: Sampdoria-Inter Milan, Saturday 18.00, Stadio Luigi Ferraris
The quote: "I've never thought about stopping. Myself and my team-mates will fight to win all the titles we can," Ronaldinho, AC Milan midfielder.
Ligue 1: Serious tests for Bordeaux and Lyon
Bordeaux look invincible at the moment, having staved off defeat in any competition since 7 March, but the holders and early frontrunners know they are in for a genuine challenge from visitors Rennes on Sunday, with the fourth-placed side unbeaten this term and sure to be buoyed by their 4-0 victory at Grenoble last time out. In second, Lyon are gearing up for an equally stern encounter, knowing they must overcome a Toulouse team boasting defensive strength and clinical finishing if they hope to pounce on any points dropped by Laurent Blanc's men.
Third-placed Marseille will look to the burgeoning relationship between Mamadou Niang and Lucho Gonzalez as they set out to post a win at Valenciennes, where their hosts are likely to be in confident mood following their impressive 5-2 triumph at Sochaux. In the lower reaches, basement outfit Grenoble and second-bottom Nice will be desperate to halt their losing runs when they take on fellow strugglers Auxerre and Lille respectively.
The question: Beaten six times in their six matches this season, will Grenoble be able to clinch their very first point at Auxerre?
The big game: Bordeaux-Rennes, Sunday 21.00, Stade Chaban-Delmas
The quote: "We know what it is we do best. It's thanks to that approach that we did so well last season and everyone wants a repeat, which gives us even more confidence ahead of our trip to Lyon," Etienne Didot, Toulouse midfielder.
With seven games played in the Ukraine, the country's two major powers have already pulled away from the pack. Dinamo Kiev currently enjoy the view from the top of the table, two points clear of Shakhtar Donetsk, and there is little reason to believe the situation is set to change this weekend. Champions Dinamo welcome Zarja Lugansk, in 11th, while UEFA Cup trophy holders Shakhtar entertain eighth-placed Kiev outfit Obolon.
In Romania, surprise pacesetters Brasov take on Steaua Bucarest, who lie a point back in third. That top-of-the-table encounter could play into the hands of second-placed Dinamo Bucharest, who will look to emerge winners at Gaz Metan Medias, in 12th.