World Leagues preview
Fixture lists across the world’s top leagues outside Europe have a hotly contested look to them this weekend, with derbies scheduled in Argentina, Brazil and Mexico, and champions set to be crowned in China. As per usual, FIFA.com previews all the upcoming action.
Argentinian Apertura: Huge duels across the country
A mouth-watering clash between first and second, as well as three enticing derbies, are on the menu. Boca Juniors will be keen to show their recent revival is no flash in the pan against an inconsistent Independiente side, while River Plate go into the nation’s oldest clasico against Racing Club looking to end a run of five games without victory. Last but not least, Huracan take on high-flying local rivals San Lorenzo for the 153rd time on Sunday.
High stakes: Leaders Estudiantes and nearest challengers Velez Sarsfield cross swords at the Estadio Jose Amalfitani in Liniers, in a match that has generated considerable hype among fans and media alike. El Pincha hold a three-point advantage over Ricardo Gareca’s men, who boast the second-best scoring record in the league. The scene is set for a pulsating 90 minutes of action between two of the best teams in the country.
Player to watch: Mauro Obolo, the principal goal threat of an Arsenal team that has surprised many so far, will have the opportunity to increase his current goal tally of five on Friday night against a Godoy Cruz outfit aiming to continue their climb up the table. The Cordoba-born forward has formed a productive strike partnership with Luciano Leguizamon, and will be eager to find the back of the net for the third successive game.
Brasileirao: Derby day
The fixture list has thrown up no fewer than four local derbies brimming this weekend: Vasco da Gama-Flamengo, Gremio-Internacional, Cruzeiro-Atletico Mineiro and Corinthians-Palmeiras. The latter meeting heralds the start of Tite’s second spell in charge of O Timão, who sit third but have now gone seven matches without a win.
High stakes: The forthcoming Belo Horizonte derby between table-topping Cruzeiro and relegation-threatened Atletico Mineiro has all the hallmarks of a high-pressure encounter, as not only do A Raposa need to keep winning to maintain their lead, but their struggling city rivals could, in the event of victory, actually extricate themselves from the drop zone for the first time since mid-July.
Player to watch: Corinthians fans are pinning their hopes on the evergreen Ronaldo, who last Sunday made a much-anticipated return to the side, to help their off-form heroes collect a win that could revive their fading title push. Playing against Palmeiras will bring back some happy memories for the veteran marksman, since it was against O Verdão that he registered his first goal for the club.
Mexican Apertura: Superclasico time
Having taken a back seat in the country’s media this week to the announcement that Jose Manuel de la Torre would soon take over the reins of the national team, Mexico’s clubs will once again be the main attraction at the weekend. Most eyes will be transfixed on the Superclasico between America and Guadalajara, but there are also some intriguing meetings in prospect elsewhere, with Atlas and Atlante desperate to take points off each other in the battle to avoid the drop, and Cruz Azul keen to maintain their position of overall leader by overcoming Monarcas in Morelia.
High stakes: Neither Chivas nor America could exactly be described as being in peak form at the moment, but as ever when arch-rivals lock horns, the form book is likely go flying out of the window. While the prospect of emerging victorious from the historic encounter should alone provide sufficient motivation, there is also the small matter of acquiring three important points, as the race for Liguilla play-off berths begins to heat up.
Player to watch: Santos Laguna will turn to on-song Ecuadorian goal machine Christian Benitez in their attempt to get the better of a strong Monterrey side that is yet to taste defeat this season. Having found the net on 11 occasions this campaign, Benitez is the league’s leading scorer and will require careful attention from Los Rayados’ miserly defence.
Chinese Super League: Shandong on verge of triumph
With just four rounds of the season remaining, Shandong Luneng are on the brink of claiming the title for the fourth time in their history. It would take a turnaround of staggering proportions for closest chasers Shanghai Shenhua, who trail the Jinan-based outfit by 11 points, to somehow pip them to the post.
High stakes: The runaway leaders, led by Croatian coach Branko Ivankovic, will be intent on making up for last week’s disappointing draw with Henan Jianye as they welcome Qingdao to Shandong Stadium. A win in front of an expectant home crowd will see them crowned national champions for the second time in three years.
Player to watch: Lebanese star Roda Antar, who moved from the Bundesliga in 2009, has provided Shandong with some crucial goals from midfield this season, none more so than last week’s injury-time equaliser which left his team on the threshold of glory. Another goal from the former Freiberg player would go a long way to helping Shandong to mathematically clinch the title once and for all.
The undoubted highlight in the Tunisian Ligue 1 is the meeting of second-placed Etoile Sahel and Club Africain, whose current position of fifth disguises loftier ambitions. One team hoping that Etoile slip up is CAF Champions League finalists Esperance, who presently enjoy a three-point lead at the summit of the country’s top flight.
The Algerian Ligue 1 season may still be taking shape, but that is unlikely to affect ES Setif’s determination to bounce back from last week’s loss to JSM Bejaia. The 2009/10 runners-up host third-placed El Harrach on Friday in what promises to be a closely contested affair. Meanwhile, surprise early frontrunners MC Saida will look to continue their excellent start to the season away to WA Tlemcen.