World Leagues preview
A new campaign will commence in China PR this weekend as Round 1 continues in the USA. With the race to reach state championship play-offs in the final straight in Brazil, second meeting third in Argentina and India, the leadership potentially changing hands in Fiji, and intriguing encounters in Uruguay, Guatamala and Morocco, FIFA.com previews the forthcoming action outside Europe.
Argentinian Clausura: Away examinations for top two
A fascinating duel between third and second will kick off Round 11, when surprise package Godoy Cruz, two points off the pace, visit an Estudiantes side four points behind them on Friday evening. Thereafter, mid-table Colon will look for their first victory in six attempts at home to leaders Independiente.
Velez Sarsfield, in fourth, and sixth-placed Banfield will be expected to seize three points at home to winless Atletico Tucuman and a mid-table Gimnasia team short on form respectively.
High stakes: Argentinos Juniors, in fifth, make the trip to a 13th-placed River Plate team eager to rebound from defeat by arch-rivals Boca Juniors in midweek.
Players to watch: The form of attacker Federico Higuain, Gonzalo’s older brother, has been central to Godoy Cruz’s assault on the title, while Juan Sebastian Veron continues to pull the strings for Estudiantes.
Brazilian State Championships: Critical time for crisis clubs
With Santos guaranteed a place in the Campeonato Paulista semi-finals and Santo Andre all but through, attention will turn to the battle for the two remaining places. Under-fire Corinthians have two points to make up with three rounds remaining, but face a steep hurdle in the form of fierce enemies Sao Paulo, who would put one foot in the play-offs with victory.
Portuguesa and Gremio-SP, level on points in fourth and fifth, will lock horns in the former’s Estadio do Caninde.
High stakes: A third straight loss in midweek left giants Vasco two points shy of the Taca Rio play-off places with two rounds remaining, and prompted them to sack Vagner Mancini. O Gigante da Colina simply need to beat Fluminense, who require just a draw to advance.
Players to watch: Can Jones Carioca help America achieve a victory that would, provided Vasco fail to win, propel them into the Taca Rio semi-finals? Flamengo, who need just a point to make sure of advancing, will task midfield enforcer Maldonado with stifling the 21-year-old.
American Major League Soccer: And they’re off
Seattle Sounders and Philadelphia Union kicked off the competition last night, and Colorado Rapids and Chivas USA will continue the campaign this evening.
The remaining six games will unfold on Saturday. Record four-time champions DC United, spearheaded by new Australian import Danny Allsopp, visit a Kansas City Wizards side captained by USA midfielder Davy Arnaud in a repeat of the 2004 final, while holders Real Salt Lake run out at San Jose Earthquakes.
High stakes: Last year’s runners-up Los Angeles Galaxy and New England Revolution are among the favourites for gold. Who will win their curtain-raiser at the Home Depot Center?
Players to watch: New York Red Bulls and Chicago Fire will charge their veteran marksmen, Brian McBride and Juan Pablo Angel respectively, with getting them off to a flyer.
Fijian National Football League: 180 minutes enough for pole?
Lautoka may be five points clear at the Fijian National Football League summit, but they could finish the weekend looking up at Labasa. That’s because while the former are on OFC Champions League duty, the latter will play twice. The Babasiga Lions, whose game in hand against Nadroga on Friday evening will be followed by a meeting with third-placed arch-rivals Ba on Sunday, will nevertheless have to play these ‘home’ fixtures away from their Subrail Park base after it was damaged by the recent Cyclone Thomas.
Fourth-placed Rewa will visit a Fiji U-20 team down in seventh in their fifth outing of the campaign.
High stakes: Tavua and Nadi, who both have one point apiece, will collide in a battle of the bottom two.
Players to watch: Labasa playmaker Ilisoni Logaivou and Ba goal-getter Malakai Tiwa could have a big say in the outcome of their contest.
Chinese Super League: Continental returnees eye fast start
Four matches; four defeats. That was Chinese clubs’ record in the AFC Champions League in midweek, but home games to begin what appears a wide open domestic title battle will give them the chance to appease their fans. Beijing Guoan and Changchun Yatai, first and second last season, face newly-promoted teams Nanchang Bayi and Liaoning Hongyun respectively, while Shandong Luneng take on Hangzhou Lucheng and Henan Jianye meet Chongqing Lifan.
High stakes: Shenzhen Ruby, the inaugural champions in 2004, entertain a Jiangsu Sainty team boasting an intriguing mix of Chinese and Brazilian players.
Players to watch: Shaanxi Chanba’s former Inter Milan forward Mohamed Kallon and Dalian Haichang’s ex-Perugia playmaker Ahn Jung-Hwan have the ability to settle what is, on paper, one of the more balanced fixtures.
Uruguayan Clausura pacesetters Penarol will strive to make in an implausible 30 points from a possible 30 away to Defensor. Fenix, seven points back in second, visit struggling Tacuarembo, while third-placed Nacional are at a Cerro side two slots to their rear.
Comunicaciones and Xelaju are level on points atop of the Guatamalan Liga Nacional. The former are poised to entertain Municipal in the country’s biggest derby, El Clásico Chapin, while the latter are at home to Heredia-Jaguares.
WAC Casablanca lead the Moroccan Botola by five points with eight rounds remaining, but they have a steep hurdle to climb on Sunday, when they run out at sixth-placed HUS Agadir. The record 16-time national champions’ two closest challengers will be expected to claim victory one day earlier. Raja Casablanca are at home to out-of-sorts FUS Rabat, while third-placed Difaa El Jadida visit a mid-table Maghreb Tetouan team seeking their first win in five attempts.
Indian I-League frontrunners Dempo will welcome JCT to Goa, as their two closest challenges, second-placed Mahindra United and Chirag United, square off in the latter’s backyard.