Battles intensify for top spots
Things have rarely been tighter at the top in Brazil, Japan and the USA, where the chasing pack continue to keep the pressure on the frontrunners. In Russia domestic action resumes this weekend after the national team's adventures at UEFA EURO 2008, while in Cameroon, the curtain comes down on another season with Cotonsport Garoua having been crowned champion during the week. As ever, FIFA.com is here to mark your card with the pick of the weekend's action.
Brasileiro: Gremio, Cruzeiro hot on Flamengo's heels
Flamengo, the outright leaders of the national championship, will defend top spot this weekend with a home fixture against Nautico Recife a week after beating Nautico's city rivals Sport in the Pernambuco capital. Fla's chief pursuers, Gremio and Cruzeiro, will be hoping to get back to winning ways after both were held to home draws last week.
The Porto Alegre side play away this Sunday against 16th-placed Botafogo, who will be keen to improve on their modest tally of eight points from eight games, while Cruzeiro are away to Sport Recife who, having had their unbeaten run ended last week against leaders Fla, will be in no mood to surrender more points against their visitors from Belo Horizonte. Elsewhere, defending champions Sao Paulo, six points off the pace, can ill afford to lose more ground and badly need a win over lowly Ipatinga.
Big game: Fluminense need to quickly put behind them the disappointment of this week's loss in the final of the Copa Libertadores. In last place on just three points, the Rio giants will now be focusing all their efforts on the national championship, starting with this weekend's away fixture against Goias, themselves third from bottom on just six points.
Players to watch: Cruzeiro will again put their faith in sharpshooter Guilherme, with six goals already this season, as they go in search of top spot. However Flamengo's Marcinho, with just one goal less, will be determined to see his side stay at the summit and could well add to his tally.
American Major League Soccer: Battle of Conference leaders
The top two in the MSL go head-to-head this weekend with the meeting of Western Conference frontrunners Los Angeles Galaxy and their Eastern counterparts New England Revolution. Ruud Gullit's side will be taking nothing for granted at the Home Depot Center following their chastening defeat last weekend against DC United and their visitors' impressive win over high-flying Toronto on the same matchday.
Big game: Chivas USA will be hoping to take advantage of last night's scoreless draw between Real Salt Lake and Houston Dynamo to move into second place in the Western section with a win over bottom side San Jose Earthquakes.
Players to watch: DC United's Brazilian striker Luciano Emilio has been the driving force behind their run of four consecutive wins. Voted June's Player of the Month, his goals have helped the Washington climb to third in the Eastern Conference.
Japanese J.League: Tight at the top
J.League co-leaders Urawa Red Diamonds and Nagoya Grampus Eight have points to prove on matchday 15 after both suffered reverses last weekend. The Asian champions face a tricky home time against FC Tokyo who, despite lying in fifth place, are only two points off the pace.
Their rivals from Aichi, meanwhile, look to have a less taxing fixture with a trip to mid-table Albirex Niigata. Also in the mix are defending champions Kashima Antlers, who could hit the front if they beat Jubilo and other results go their way.
Big game: Sixth-placed Kashiwa Reysol will have their tails up going into their clash with third-placed Gamba Osaka after toppling Urawa last time out. With only two points separating the pair, both know this is a chance to steal a march on a direct title rival.
Players to watch: Two Brazilians have been hogging the headlines this season with their unerring marksmanship. Kashima Antlers' forward, Marquinhos, tops the scoring charts with ten goals, while Gamba Osaka's Bare, with just one less, will be hoping to continue the form that saw him grab a brace last Sunday against Consadole Sapporo.
Russia Premier League: Back to work
Following a break of almost two months to allow Guus Hiddink to prepare the national team for UEFA EURO 2008, domestic action returns this weekend to Russia, where Rubin Kazan lead the way after 12 matchdays.
The Kazan side, who had midfielder Serguei Semak on duty at EURO 2008, have a five-point lead over immediate pursuers Spartak Moscow. Both return to action with home advantage against mid-table sides, facing Krylya Sovetov and Terek Groznyi respectively.
Big game: The Moscow derby between CSKA and Dinamo is the pick of the weekend's action, with seventh-placed CSKA three points behind their city rivals but having played two games fewer.
Players to watch: Zenit St. Petersburg will be looking to their returning internationals, including Chelsea target Andrei Arshavin, to get them off to a winning start. The recently crowned UEFA Cup champions are currently second from bottom, but have only played six games (of a possible 11) this season because of their European commitments.
Cotonsport Garoua wrapped up the Division 1 title in Cameroon in midweek after drawing with Fovu and seeing their nearest challengers, Canon de Yaunde, slip to defeat against Antres. Today's final matchday will see Cotonsport round off their campaign at home to Tonnerre before embarking on the main business of the day - celebrating their latest triumph in front of their jubilant fans.