Return of the usual suspects
For a while, it looked like there would be an unheralded champion in Brazil, but come the business end of the season, the two-time champions look like making it three in a row. In Argentina, early leaders San Lorenzo have been pegged back by another familiar face. In Japan, Australia and Egypt, however, there is plenty of drama left to be distilled, while the play-off quarter-final ties in Mexico remain delicately balanced. FIFA.com previews the weekend action outside Europe.
Brasileirao: Sao Paulo ready to party
So it has come to this. After all the twists and turns of a thrilling Brasileirao, in which Gremio, Cruzeiro and Flamengo all looked headed for glory at various stages, it is steady Sao Paulo who appear headed for their third straight title. Victory at home to Fluminense will seal the deal, while anything less will be enough if Gremio, five points back in second, fail to win on their visit to all-but-relegated Ipatinga.
Big game: The race to finish in the top four and qualify for the Copa Libertadores 2008 is particularly fierce, with only three points separating second and fifth. Cruzeiro, in third and level on points with fourth-placed Palmeiras, will be hoping that Internacional's midweek Copa Sudamericana heroics will have taken some of the sting from their attack when they travel down to Porto Alegre.
Player to watch: What a season it has been for Keirrison. After four goals in his last outing against Santos, the 19-year-old now has Vasco da Gama, who need points to escape the relegation zone, in his sights.
Argentinian Apertura: Boca look to surge ahead
With closest rivals San Lorenzo and Tigre both losing last weekend, Boca Juniors opened up a two-point lead at the top of the table, and will be looking to extend their cushion at home to Racing Club. San Lorenzo, for their part, will have a double motivation for victory this weekend: not only would three points keep the pressure on Boca, but it would provide much-desired bragging rights over local rivals Huracan, who are currently languishing just above the drop zone.
Big game: River Plate still find themselves in the unaccustomed position of last, and things only get worse for Los Millonarios this weekend: they are away to third-placed Tigre, who were stunned by Copa Sudamericana finalists Estudiantes last weekend and will be determined to get their title chase back on track.
Player to watch: The exploits of Lanus's Jose Sand this season have been an inspiration to journeymen everywhere. The 28-year-old forward, who has never stayed at one club for more than two years, finally seems to have settled with El Granate, and must expect to add to his season's tally of 14 goals against mid-table Arsenal on Saturday.
Japanese J.League: Antlers hanging on
A narrow 1-0 win away to Emperor's Cup champions Oita Trinita last weekend was enough to maintain Kashima Antlers' two-point lead at the top, but Nagoya Grampus Eight remained hot on their heels thanks to a last-ditch win over Kyoto Purple Sanga. This weekend, both teams are at home, but Nagoya look to have the easier task, facing long-relegated Consadole Sapporo, while the leaders must see off a Jubilo Iwata side still very much in the relegation dog-fight.
Big game: The game at the Expo '70 stadium between Gamba Osaka and Urawa Red Diamonds pits the 2007 and 2008 Asian champions against each other. Gamba are well out of contention for the title, but their guests still have a slim chance of glory, and will fancy their chances against Akira Nishino's exhausted troops, who last week lost 4-0 to Kawasaki Frontale.
Player to watch: Kyoto are not yet out of the relegation scrap, and would breathe much easier if they could secure three points at fellow strugglers Omiya Ardija. And they have a potential saviour in veteran international striker Atsushi Yanagisawa, who has fired in four goals in his last two games.
Australian A-League: High-flyers on the road
The top four teams in the A-League are all away from home this weekend, with leaders Melbourne Victory travelling across the Tasman Sea to face resurgent Wellington Phoenix, who followed up a win away at Sydney FC with a victory at home over reigning champions Newcastle Jets. The latter are at home to FIFA Club World Cup hopefuls Adelaide United, who belied their travel weariness by seeing off Sydney in style last weekend.
Big game: Sydney FC and Queensland Roar fought a bitterly-contested semi-final tie last year, and the battle continued in October, Sydney scoring a dramatic equaliser in the third minute of added time. And now, with only two points separating the two sides and a spot in the four-team final series up for grabs, the rivalry resumes on Friday evening.
Player to watch: Brazilian playmaker Fred, a hero for Melbourne Victory when they seized the A-League title in 2007, has returned to the competition after his stint with DC United in the MLS. This time, however, he is wearing the colours of Wellington Phoenix, and will be up against his former colleagues on Friday night.
The quarter-final, second legs in the Mexican Apertura take place on Sunday, with only Santos Laguna boasting a solid advantage after their 3-1 first-leg victory over San Luis. The other three games were drawn, giving this weekend's home sides, namely Toluca, Atlante and Pumas, something of an edge.
While Al Ahly have been busy with their CAF Champions League triumph, Petrojet and ENPPI have continued their neck-and-neck struggle at the top of the Egyptian Premier League. Petrojet have held on to their two-point lead, and should feel confident of taking three points on Saturday, away to mid-table Telecom. ENPPI, for their part, host the new African champions, who lost to Ittihad El-Shorta in midweek with a below-strength side. Will their exhausting continental campaign sap Al Ahly's strength for this crucial league encounter?