World Leagues preview
Though Santos have yet to pick up any silverware so far this campaign, their high-tempo, technical and attacking style of play and an average of 2.93 goals a game are winning them many admirers throughout Brazilian football. Indeed, their last outing was a 10-0 home rout of humble Naviraiense, with an O Peixe squad featuring such talented youngsters as Neymar enjoying a surge in confidence since Robinho’s loan switch from Manchester City. And after recent victories over fierce rivals Sao Paulo and Corinthians, Os Meninos da Vila are looking forward to another clássico this weekend.
Of course there is more to the world football scene than just Brazil, with FIFA.com also taking a look at the best of the domestic action ahead in Australia, Argentina, Mexico, Chile, Japan and Korea Republic.
Brazilian state championships: Santos on fire
Though it is Santos who are hogging the headlines in Brazil at present, fellow Paulista outfit Corinthians, featuring Ronaldo and Roberto Carlos, will be looking to turn the spotlight their way with a victory over tournament surprise packages Santo Andre. In Rio de Janeiro, Sunday’s clássico between Flamengo and Vasco da Gama is the pair’s first meeting since the latter won last year’s Serie B title to return to the top flight, though Fla’s star striker Adriano is a doubt through injury. Over in the Gaucho championship, Gremio take on Internacional de Santa Maria, not to be confused with Gremio’s fierce rivals SC Internacional - the Porto Alegre outfit and 2006 world champions.
Big game: The meeting of Santos and Palmeiras pits the country’s form team against a side still nursing the wounds of their late collapse in the 2009 national championship. However, O Verdão’s recently appointed coach Antonio Carlos may hand a debut to forward Ewerton, once of Real Zaragoza and Borussia Dortmund, while his charges should benefit from renewed focus after a training camp in the city of Itu.
Player to watch: Now back to full fitness, former Lyon front-runner Fred has fired five goals in Fluminense’s last four matches, thus echoing his prolific late 2009 form which helped save Flu from the drop. On Saturday Fred and Co take on America-RJ.
Australian A-League: All or nothing
With Melbourne Victory already safely in the Grand Final, all that remains is to discover who will meet them in the championship decider.
Big game: Looking to bounce back from their painful defeat by rivals Melbourne will be Sydney FC, who take on Wellington Phoenix in the last A-League semi-final on Saturday. Moreover, Sydney won both home games against the Kiwi outfit this season and are the only team to pick up points on New Zealand soil in the last 18 months.
Player to watch: Former Millwall, Sheffield United and Crystal Palace wide-man Paul Ifil, a key figure for Wellington, will be playing through the pain against Sydney. The gifted Barbadian took a knock on his knee during his team’s victory over Newcastle Jets.
Argentinian Clausura: River and Boca stuck in a rut
When will Buenos Aires giants River Plate and Boca Juniors finally show their true colours, with the pair’s points tallies of nine and eight points keeping them way off the pace in 16th and 17th place respectively. Indeed, they are currently far closer to bottom side Atletico Tucuman, on five points, to the 17 points already accrued by pace-setters Independiente. This weekend Boca take on Tigre, with River set to host Huracan – the team one place above Los Millonarios in the standings. Independiente, for their part, will meet mid-table Chacarita Juniors.
Big game: On the back of a draw with Copa Libertadores group rivals Bolivar in La Paz in midweek, Estudiantes are set to bring back their regulars for the domestic clash with Newell's Old Boys given coach Alejandro Sabella’s determination to stay in touch with the leaders. Newell’s in fifth spot are currently one point and three places ahead of El Pincha.
Player to watch: On six goals apiece Nestor Silvera of Independiente and Boca’s Martin Palermo are currently leading the Clausura scorers’ charts, though the veteran Xeneize star has recently admitted his goal-laden time at the club could be nearing an end. Could he follow the examples of club idols such as Guillermo Schelotto and Roberto Abbondanzieri, who both enjoyed fresh challenges abroad after leaving La Bombonera late in their careers?
Mexican Bicentenario: Chivas aim to bounce back
After their eight-game winning start to the Clausura was ended in dramatic fashion in a 4-0 defeat by Jaguares, Group 1 leaders Guadalajara will be hoping to get back on the victory trail against Pumas UNAM, currently second in Group 3. Las Chivas remain ten points clear in their section and two points ahead of closest chasers Monterrey in the overall standings.
Big game: Fresh from a resounding 6-0 win over Queretaro, next up for America are Atlante, who are struggling at the bottom of Group 2. Yet Los Potros have never lost to Las Águilas since moving to Cancun in 2007 and are desperate for a win to get their season back on track.
Player to watch: Argentina-born Mexico international Vicente Matias Vuoso, who should spearhead Santos’ attack against Pachuca on Sunday, will be looking to impress national-team coach Javier Aguirre after being called up for the upcoming friendly with Korea DPR.
Over in Chile, third-placed O'Higgins take on the side directly above them in the standings, Universidad de Chile. Eagerly awaiting the outcome of that clash will be leaders Union Espanola, who take on Santiago Morning.
The challenges are coming thick and fast for reigning champions Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors, who kicked off their Korea Republic K-League defence with a 3-1 home win over fellow heavyweights Suwon Samsung Bluewings followed by a hard-fought 2-2 draw at Jeju United. And on Sunday they must travel to leaders FC Seoul, winners of both their games thus far.
Finally to Japan’s J-League, where seven teams are all level on three points at the top of the standings after winning their opening encounters. Among these sides are Kashima Antlers, champions for the last three seasons, who face a tough test away to Kyoto Purple Sanga on Sunday.