World Leagues preview
While some of the world’s major leagues outside Europe are just getting into gear, others are reaching exciting climaxes. FIFA.com puts you in the picture ahead of another fascinating weekend of domestic action.
Argentinian Clausura: Top two eye fresh momentum
Velez Sarsfield and Colon have made the fastest starts in Argentina, sharing the lead on 11 points apiece from five games. El Fortín’s start to the campaign is all the more impressive for the fact that coach Ricardo Gareca has been focusing his efforts on the Copa Libertadores and sending out weakened teams in the league. Their next engagement comes on Saturday at Huracan, the side they edged out in a dramatic last-day conclusion to the last Clausura title race.
Colon, meanwhile, have only the championship to concentrate on following their elimination from the preliminary round of the Libertadores. They are in action on Saturday evening against a Rosario Central side rooted to the bottom of the table.
Big game: The Avellaneda derby between Independiente and Racing is the first to be staged at the Estadio Libertadores de America since it was refurbished last year. Americo Gallego’s Independiente side go into the game with a point to prove after losing 3-0 to Velez in their last outing, while La Academia have recovered their poise a little under new coach Angel Russo.
Player to watch: Evergreen Boca Juniors goal-getter Martin Palermo has scored in four out of five games so far and will be out to extend his scoring streak against that Estudiantes, the club at which he started out. Palermo, who is vying for a place in Diego Maradona’s squad for the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa™, never celebrates when he scores against his old side.
Brazilian state championships: Santos out for more
There are a host of interesting regional encounters across Brazil this weekend. Campeonato Paulista leaders Santos welcome Corinthians and their FIFA World Cup winners Ronaldo and Roberto Carlos, while underperforming giants Sao Paulo and Palmeiras take on Atletico Monte Azul and Rio Claro respectively.
Big games: Buoyed by the return of Robinho, Santos have won seven games on the trot. That record is sure to be tested by Corinthians, who run the risk of slipping from third to seventh if they fail to collect points at the Vila Belmiro. Over in the Campeonato Gaucho, it is final time in the Taca Fernando Carvalho. Shock semi-final winners over Internacional, Novo Hamburgo take on Gremio in the final, with the victors earning a place in the overall state championship final.
Player to watch: Teenage forward Neymar is making a name for himself at Santos and has another opportunity to display his deadly finishing skills against Corinthians this weekend.
Mexican Bicentenario: Eight in a row for Chivas?
Seven consecutive wins have powered Guadalajara to the top of the standings, a run they could well extend on Saturday at home to struggling Real San Luis. Five points off the pace are second-placed Monterrey, who visit Atlante on the same day.
Big game: Queretaro and Santos are two of the sides in the pack chasing the leading duo, and meet this weekend in a game that will go some way to determining their play-off aspirations.
Player to watch: Free-scoring Javier Hernandez is one of the main reasons why Chivas boast a 100 per cent record this season. The young striker maintained his thrilling start to the year with two goals in Mexico’s 5-0 friendly defeat of Bolivia on Thursday.
Korean K-League: Big names meet in curtain-raiser
Korea Republic’s legions of football fans are set for a treat as the K-League 2010 begins with an appetising opening-day encounter.
Big game: The new season starts in style with reigning champions Jeonbuk Motors taking on five-time winners Suwon Bluewings. The holders are in fine fettle after dispatching Indonesia’s Persipura Jayapura 4-1 in the AFC Champions League on Tuesday, while Suwon were held to a goalless draw by Japan’s Gamba Osaka in the same competition a day later. Their two meetings last season ended in 1-1 draws and both sides will be anxious to steal a march on each other this time around.
Player to watch: Lee Dong-Gook hit 21 goals last term to become the league’s top scorer and propel Jeonbuk to the title. The 30-year-old hitman sat out his side’s midweek trip to Indonesia and looks certain to start against Suwon.
There is still everything to play for in Malawi as the championship battle enters the final day. Three points clear of ESCOM United at the top, Silver Strikers are the favourites to clinch the title. They entertain third-placed MTL Wanderers, while ESCOM face an altogether easier task away to Moyale Barracks.
Things are also tight in Nigeria, where a mere six points separate leaders Kano Pillars from ninth-placed Ranchers Bees. In the two games of the day, third meet sixth as Enugu Rangers entertain Sunshine Stars, while Niger Tornados, in seventh, travel to eighth-placed Heartland.
Auckland City lead the way in New Zealand with 24 points and two games in hand over nearest challengers Waitakere United, who are a single point adrift. The reigning champions are at Youngheart Manawatu, who are one off the bottom, while Waitakere will attempt to keep the pressure on when they welcome sixth-placed Hawkes Bay United.
Matchday 17 promises to be a good one in Tunisia, with second-placed Club Africain taking on fifth-placed Club Sportif Sfaxien. A win for CA will give them the chance to knock Tunis rivals Esperance off the top.