World Leagues preview
Silverware will be up for grabs this weekend as the Brazilian state championships come to a close, while it is a very different scenario in the USA and East Asia where the respective seasons are very much still in their infancy. FIFA.com looks ahead to the pick of the action across the four continents.
USA Major League Soccer: Upstarts aim to continue form
Surprise leaders in the Eastern Conference, Kansas City Wizards, travel to Seattle to take on the Sounders – currently third in the West – and their always-rowdy supporters. With two wins from their first two games, the Wizards are in for a stiff test in the Pacific Northwest. Last year’s champions Real Salt Lake will take on Landon Donovan and LA Galaxy, whose start to the season has been nothing short of exceptional. Chivas USA and Houston Dynamo, both of whom have started slowly, will be eager for a full three-point haul when they face off. FC Dallas, currently last place in the West, will take on New York Red Bulls, who have started well in their new soccer-specific stadium.
High stakes: San Jose Earthquakes will take on New England Revolution, winner of their first two games and shared top of the East.
Player to watch: LA Galaxy striker Edson Buddle has got his season off to a flier bagging five goals in just three starts and will aim to maintain that momentum against reigning champions Real Salt Lake.
Brazilian state championships: Silverware in the offing
This weekend’s major clash in Brazil sees Botafogo meet Flamengo in the final of the Taca Rio. If Botafogo win, they became overall Campeonato Carioca champions, because they have already claimed the Taca Guanabara. However if Fla win, the two teams face off in a decider. Return legs of the Campeonato Paulista semi-finals will also take place with Santos hoping to hang onto a 3-2 margin against Sao Paulo, while Santo Andre have a 2-1 lead against Gremio.
High stakes: Internacional will be the overwhelming favourites to beat Pelotas in the final of the Taca Fabio Koff in Rio Grande do Sul.
Player to watch: Flamengo striker Vagner Love is relishing life at the Brasileirao 2009 champions having bagged 16 goals at a ratio of almost a goal a game since returning home from CSKA Moscow.
Japanese J.League: Favourites face stiff tests
Urawa Red plays host to Kawasaki Frontale knowing that a win could propel them to the top. Defending champions Kashima Antlers, who lie in fifth place following last week's 1-1 draw against FC Tokyo, will aim to return to the top three with a home win over Sanfrecce Hiroshima.
High stakes: The only undefeated side after six games, leaders Shimizu S-Pulse, travel to Gamba Osaka seeking to cement top place with a fifth win. The visitors are in rich vein of form after swamping Vegalta Sendai 5-1 but Gamba have fine pedigree and will be confident from their 2-1 midweek win against Suwon Bluewings which sealed progression to the last 16 of the AFC Champions League.
Player to watch: Gamba's ace striker Shoki Hirai has dominated this season's scoring chart with five goals to date, including successive doubles in his last two outings.
Chinese Super League: Old champs resume rivalry
Old foes meet again as the C-League reaches the fourth round this weekend. Defending champions Beijing Guoan entertains big-spending Shaanxi Chanba with the visitors seeking their first win of the season. Meanwhile, two-time winners Shanghai Shenhua welcome Tianjin Teda confident of continuing their dominance having lost merely one of their 28 previous meetings.
High stakes: Topping the bill this weekend is the crunch tie between two of the perennial heavyweights, as three-time champions Shandong Luneng challenge Dalian Haichang, who have claimed the Chinese title a record eight times.
Player to watch: After finishing Dalian's top-scorer with six goals last season, Korea Republic veteran Ahn Jung-Hwan has shown he is still a lethal weapon upfront at the ripe old age of 34.
There is the top-of-table contest in the Korean K-League with leaders Ulsan Hyundai Horangi and second-placed FC Seoul pitted together. Holders Jeonbuk Motors take on the in-form Gwangju Sangmu Bulsajo, who overcame Chunnam Dragons 3-2 a week ago, while Suwon Bluewings face second-from-bottom Gangwon FC.
In the Iranian Pro League, pace-setters Sepahan are likely to consolidate their lead when they entertain strugglers Rah-Ahan at home. With only six matches remaining, they maintain a five-point cushion ahead of nearest contenders Zob Ahan, who face an uphill task against hosts Esteghlal.
In the Tahitian Division One Tefana will hope to maintain their lead in the playoff table when they visit AS Vaiete. Chasing hard are big guns AS Pirae who have a simpler task on paper when they host AS Tamarii Faa´a.