Fans await titanic tussles
Big matches dominate the top flight schedules in England,
Germany and Italy this weekend. Once the dust settles on Sunday
night, we could be a lot closer to knowing the destination of
championship honours and the likely contenders for next term's
UEFA Champions League and UEFA Cup.
By contrast, the big names in Spain will be expecting to collect maximum points, while the focus in France is on a tense relegation dogfight. Once again, FIFA.com previews the best of the action in Europe's biggest leagues.
Premier League: Gunners attempt to salvage their
The programme in England includes a potential title decider, as leaders Manchester United entertain third-placed Arsenal. Arsene Wenger's teams have had United's number in recent years, beating their northern rivals 13 times in the league since 1986, but victory for Sir Alex Ferguson's side on this occasion would hammer a final nail into the coffin of Arsenal's title ambitions.
Chelsea, just three points off United in third, meet 15th-placed Wigan Athletic on Monday, determined not to let Cristiano Ronaldo and Co pull any further clear. In the battle for Champions League qualifying places, meanwhile, fourth-placed Liverpool meet Blackburn Rovers in eighth, with chief rivals Everton travelling to relegation candidates Birmingham City (17th) on Saturday.
The question: Can Arsenal bounce back from their demoralising Champions League exit away to in-form Manchester United?
The big game: Manchester United-Arsenal, Sunday 13 April, 4.00pm local time
The quote: "He has more experience than anyone else at the club, and he'll find the words we need to hear before he sends us on our way to victory," Emmanuel Adebayor, Arsenal striker, on coach Arsene Wenger and the showdown with United.
Bundesliga: Big guns face off in Bremen and
The fixtures on Bundesliga Matchday 28 include a pair of mouth-watering top-of-the-table showdowns plus Sunday's latest instalment in the long-running rivalry between Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund. The leaders host the men from the Ruhr valley, currently a disappointing 11th in the standings, in the first of two meetings between the sides in the space of seven days - the pair square off again in the German Cup final a week on Saturday. The odds are stacked against Borussia this weekend, as they last took maximum points from Munich on 12 October 1991, almost 17 years ago.
In Bremen, fourth-placed Werder meet Schalke 04, a point and two places ahead of them in the table, with a tense battle in store in the fight for direct qualification to the Champions League. The teams in sixth and fifth respectively clash in Leverkusen, although the combatants' fortunes are heading in opposite directions at the moment. Home side Bayer 04 have lost their last four and have slipped out of UEFA Cup contention, but reigning champions Stuttgart are on a roll and have not lost in eight.
The question: Can Bayer Leverkusen halt a run of four straight defeats and return to contention for the European berths?
The big game: Werder Bremen-Schalke 04, Saturday 12 April, 3.30pm
The quote: "At this stage of the season, there's no secrets left for one club to hide from another," Dortmund coach Thomas Doll on two meetings with Bayern in the space of seven days.
Serie A: Landmark clash takes pride of place
Six of the top seven face off in Italy on the kind of weekend capable of deciding the destination of the silverware. The most enticing fixture of the lot pairs Serie A titans Juventus (3rd on 58 points) and AC Milan (5th on 52) for a landmark 150th meeting in the Italian top flight.
Elsewhere, leaders Inter Milan and closest pursuers Roma both face stern tests. Roberto Mancini's men entertain fourth-placed Fiorentina, while Luciano Spalletti's troops, now just four points off the pace, travel to face seventh-placed Udinese, undefeated in their last four home matches.
The question: As the fight for Champions League places goes down to the wire, can Inter and Juventus emerge as the big winners of the weekend?
The big game: Juventus-AC Milan, Saturday 12 April, 8.30pm
The quote: "Looked at in terms of points and prestige, the Juventus game is critical for us. There are only six games left, and we know what we have to do," Clarence Seedorf, AC Milan midfielder.
La Liga: Real close in on title
A seven-point advantage over Villarreal and Barcelona means Bernd Schuster's Madrid are firmly in the La Liga driving seat. The men from Madrid stand a decent chance of extending their lead this weekend in Sunday evening's meeting with lowly Real Murcia, staring relegation in the face down in 19th spot.
Villarreal face a thorny task away to Almeria, the best-placed of the promoted clubs in ninth and hovering on the fringes of the UEFA Cup places. Barcelona, fresh from securing their passage to the Champions League semi-finals, travel to Recreativo Huelva, also threatened with the drop in 17th.
The question: Can 14th-placed Valencia improve a disastrous home record of four wins, three draws and eight defeats with a victory over fifth-placed Racing Santander, thus pulling clear of the drop zone?
The big game: Almeria-Villarreal, Sunday 13 April, 9.00pm
The quote: "We have seven more games, and every one of them looks like a final. I know we can do it. It's good our next game is at home to Murcia, and I'm sure we'll do well, with our fans behind us," Wesley Sneijder, Real Madrid midfielder.
Ligue 1: Lyon seek return to winning ways
Following a bitter 3-1 defeat away to Marseille last week, serial French champions Lyon are set on bouncing back against Stade Rennes with maximum points and another stride towards a seventh straight domestic league title. Second-placed Bordeaux, at home to promoted SM Caen, will be confident of at least containing Lyon's six-point advantage.
Marseille visit bottom club Metz hoping to continue their assault on third place and a Champions League qualifying berth, although OM need Nancy to drop points away to Lille. Nothing less than a win will do for Paris St. Germain at home to Nice as PSG desperately seek an escape route from the relegation mire. Monaco and Toulouse also urgently require a lifeline to stave off the threat of second division football next term. The pair meet in a classic relegation six-pointer this weekend.
The question: Marseille have not lost in their last five Ligue 1 away fixtures. Can Eric Gerets' men continue their fine form and claim a place in Europe's elite club competition despite their disastrous start to the campaign?
The big game: Monaco-Toulouse, Saturday 12 April, 8.00pm
The quote: "Let's wait and see how Nancy cope with the pressure," Eric Gerets, Olympique Marseille coach.
Belgian front-runners Standard Liege, undefeated so far this term, will seek to maintain that impressive record away to 11-placed Lokeren and protect their lead over resurgent Anderlecht.
In the Netherlands, PSV Eindhoven will have a chance to secure their 21st domestic title, although this will require Groningen (7th) to take points off chief title rivals Ajax.
In an enthralling set of fixtures in Denmark, leaders Aalborg BK travel to third-placed Midtjylland hoping to land a knockout blow on a dangerous title rival, while Copenhagen in second meet fourth-placed Odense BK.