The beautiful game is grabbing the headlines across the Americas once more, with many of the region’s major national and regional championships back underway or starting anew after a brief pause.

The weekend’s action in Brazil was notable for clássicos between traditional state rivals, while in Mexico teams are already jostling for position at both ends of the standings. Elsewhere the heavyweights of Chilean, Paraguayan and Ecuadorian football have kicked off their bids for domestic glory. Here to keep you right up-to-date is

Brazilian state championships: Clássicos steal the show
Clashes between traditional rivals dominated this weekend’s card in Brazil, starting in the Carioca championship, where Botafogo kicked off Matchday 4 by beating Olaria 3-1 and arch-foes Flamengo and Vasco da Gama crossed swords. Over in the Paulista competition, Santos edged a tight contest with Sao Paulo, while Gremio got the better of Porto Alegre neighbours and fellow Gaucho championship contenders Internacional in a Gre-Nal clássico.  

Big game: Flamengo extended their 100 per cent start to the campaign and in the process ensured a fourth consecutive defeat for Vasco with a 2-1 success courtesy of Deivid’s opener and a stunning second from new loan signing Thiago Neves. The result took Fla top of Group A and their beaten opponents are now mathematically unable to progress in the Taca Guanabara – the first stage of the Carioca championship.
Reigning Brazilian national champions Fluminense have also begun the Carioca season in imposing form, making it four wins from four with Sunday’s 4-2 Group B victory at Macae. Two goals from Flu’s ex-Lyon front-man Fred took him to the top of the scorers’ charts.

Mexican Clausura: Little to choose at either end
There were good results for traditional heavyweights America and Cruz Azul at the weekend in the fourth round of matches in the Clausura 2011, in which the duo have had contrasting starts to their campaigns. The former put their results crisis and the midweek departure of coach Manuel Lapuente to one side to record a 2-0 success away to Atlas, though they remain rooted to the foot of Group 2. La Máquina, for their part, thumped Pachuca to reclaim second spot in Group 3.

Big game: Cruz Azul picked up their first three points on their travels this Clausura thanks to Saturday’s 4-0 win against Pachuca at the Estadio Hidalgo, where Chilean Hugo Patricio Droguett opened the scoring six minutes before the interval. Julio Cesar Dominguez doubled their lead on 61 minutes, Alejandro Castro made it 3-0 with a long-range piledriver 13 minutes later before Cesar Villaluz sealed the rout late on.
America’s new Chilean coach Carlos Reinoso enjoyed a fine start at the helm after his side inflicted Atlas’ first defeat of the Clausura 2011. Still a point adrift at the bottom of their section, victory in their next game at home to Queretaro is vital to keep the momentum going.

Chilean Apertura: Mixed start for big names
Though the Apertura 2011 began predictably enough with reigning champions Universidad Catolica’s 2-0 win over Deportes Iquique, fellow contenders Universidad de Chile were held to a disappointing 1-1 draw away to Deportes La Serena.

Big game: La U flew out of the blocks in La Serena and were rewarded for their initiative with Edson Puch’s opener after just 12 minutes. In control of the game but wasteful in front of goal, the visitors lost Mauricio Victorino to a red card on 63 minutes and paid the price for their profligacy when Mauricio Salazar levelled the game five minutes from the end.
Colo Colo and Cobresal played out one of the weekend’s most evenly balanced encounters on Sunday at the Estadio Monumental in a game which ended in a 2-2 draw.

Liga Deportiva Universitaria de Quito started their Ecuadorian Apertura campaign on the wrong foot with a 1-0 reverse against Olmedo. Emelec, for their part, began encouragingly with a 2-1 victory over Deportivo Espoli.

Finally we turn to Paraguay, where champions Libertad kicked off their title defence by beating General Caballero at the Estadio Nicolas Leoz. Their goals in a 2-0 home success came via Argentinian striker Nicolas Pavlovich and midfielder Jorge Gonzalez.