World Leagues preview
Although Latin America’s biggest leagues are still in their early stages, several teams have been quickly amassing commanding leads at the top of the table. Over in Australia, the decisive title play-offs are underway, while South African league leaders SuperSport United, champions for the last two seasons, are well-placed to clinch a third consecutive crown.
FIFA.com takes a look ahead at the best of the weekend action outside of Europe.
Chilean Apertura: O'Higgins sitting pretty
While Colo Colo, Universidad Catolica and Universidad de Chile find themselves sidetracked by Copa Libertadores commitments, O’Higgins have stormed to the top of the Apertura standings with four wins from five games. The Rancagua outfit are currently one point clear of closest pursuers Union Espanola.
High stakes: Union Espanola, the division’s only unbeaten side so far, host Universidad Catolica on Saturday, with the latter determined to bounce back after two consecutive defeats. Should Union slip up, O’Higgins could increase their lead at the top with a win against Union San Felipe.
Player to watch: O’Higgins’ 19-year-old attacking midfielder Kevin Harbottle is in red-hot form, boasting five goals already this campaign including a hat-trick in a 5-1 Valentine’s Day defeat of Audax Italiano. Chile coach Marcelo Bielsa is sure to watching closely.
Colombia Apertura: Underdogs setting pace
Heading into the fifth round of matches, it is unbeaten Real Cartagena who top the standings. Though still early days, a club which have never won the national title and only finished tenth and eighth in 2009’s Apertura and Clausura are already two points clear of closest challengers Atletico Junior.
High stakes: Leaders Real Cartagena take on traditional forces America de Cali, who go into the game on the back of a first victory of the campaign over Independiente de Medellin.
Player to watch: Back from a spell in Chinese football, Once Caldas midfielder Jaime Castrillon will be keen to rediscover the form from his Independiente days which earned him national-team recognition.
Uruguayan Clausura: Penarol off to flyer
Having won all four of their opening games, Penarol are already three points clear of second-placed Fenix and five ahead of a clutch of five teams with a share of third.
High stakes: On Sunday, Penarol take on Liverpool, one of the quintet of sides level on seven points in the 2010 Clausura.
Player to watch: Penarol’s well-travelled 33-year-old goal-getter Antonio Pacheco, whose European experience includes spells at Inter Milan and Espanyol, has already struck six times this campaign.
Paraguayan Apertura: Normality reigns
Four wins from four games means Cerro Porteno are out in front and have a two-point lead over second-place Guarani, who are also unbeaten.
High stakes: Already five points behind arch-rivals Cerro, Olimpia cannot afford to slip up against Nacional on Saturday.
Players to watch: Making waves for El Ciclón are four-goal striker Pablo Zeballos and three-goal midfield man Julio Dos Santos, who between them have grabbed all but one of their side’s goal tally thus far.
Argentinian Clausura: Nothing to choose
The situation is tense at the top of the Argentinian Clausura standings, with Velez Sarsfield, Independiente, Colon and surprise packages Godoy Cruz all locked on eight points from five matchdays.
High stakes: Velez meet fellow pace-setters Independiente in a top-of-the-table clash on Friday.
Players to watch: Boca Juniors boss Abel Alves is considering lining up with both of his star centre-forwards - Martin Palermo and Lucas Viatri - against Godoy Cruz on Sunday.
Mexican league: Can anyone stop Chivas?
Streaking out in front on Mexican soil are Guadalajara, winners in all six of their opening encounters this campaign. On 18 points, Chivas already enjoy a five-point gap in the overall standings ahead of the sides with the next-best records: Monterrey and Queretaro.
High stakes: In an intriguing twist, the fixture list has pitted the latter two against each other this Saturday in a battle to see who can keep sight of Chivas in the overall standings.
Player to watch: Guadalajara’s 22-year-old front-man Javier El Chicharito Hernandez, who turned out for Mexico at the FIFA U-20 World Cup Canada 2007, has found the net no fewer than eight times in five appearances.
Just 112 days to go before the start of the 2010 FIFA World Cup™, football-hungry fans in the host nation are currently enjoying a hearty appetiser provided by the South African Premiership run-in. Now in the penultimate round of matches, only a win will do for second-placed Mamelodi Sundowns against Moroka Swallows on Friday in a game delayed by floodlight failure.
Holders SuperSport United are five points clear of their nearest rivals after a 1-0 win over Platinum Stars, though they have played a game more. Meanwhile, taking centre stage on Saturday is the Soweto derby between Orlando Pirates and Kaizer Chiefs.
The Australian A-League has reached the play-off phase, with six teams in the mix for the title. In the first leg of the major semi-final between the regular-season top two, Sydney FC went down 2-1 at Melbourne Victory on Thursday. Gold Coast United meet Newcastle Jets on Saturday and Wellington Phoenix take on Perth Glory the following day, with the winners of both single-leg encounters meeting in the other semi-final.
And finally to the Brazilian state championships, which, as you might expect given their regional format, feature a host of high-profile local derbies this weekend. In Rio de Janeiro, Vasco da Gama face Botafogo in the final of the Guanabara Cup – which is the first phase of the Carioca championship. Other clássicos to catch the eye are Atletico-MG against Cruzeiro, and Palmeiras versus Sao Paulo in the Mineiro and Paulista competitions respectively.