This weekend sees the final matchday of the regular MLS season in the US and a classic showdown in Mexico between America and Guadalajara. In Brazil, meanwhile, the race for the national championship remains the tightest in years, in contrast to Argentina, where leaders San Lorenzo look unstoppable in the Apertura. FIFA.com whets your appetite for the weekend ahead with a preview of the pick of the action form around the globe.
Brasileirao: Top versus bottom
Gremio moved three points clear at the top with a win against Sport in one of the weekend's early fixtures, heaping pressure on third- and fifth-placed Cruzeiro and Palmeiras ahead of their trips to struggling Atletico PR and Fluminense respectively. Defeat for the latter pair, combined with a win for Botafogo against bottom side Ipatinga, would further boost the survival chances of Vasco da Gama, who will be breathing a little easier after their shock 4-2 win on Thursday away to Goias. Vasco's win was all the more surprising given that it was their first in nine outings, and Goias had been unbeaten for eight games at home.
The big game: Tension and drama are sure to abound at the meeting of Fluminense and Palmeiras. The hosts badly need the points in their bid to escape the drop zone, while the visitors cannot afford a slip-up in one of the most competitive title races in many years.
Player to watch: Flu striker Washington has been open about his desire to be this year's top scorer in the Brasileirao, a feat he last achieved in 2004 while with Atletico-PR. "It would be a historic feat, and I think it can happen. I could be top scorer and Fluminense could retain their top-flight status for 2009," said Washington, who currently has 18 goals to his name, two fewer than Kleber Pereira del Santos.
Argentinian Apertura: Can anyone stop San Lorenzo?
As they look to keep up with the frontrunners, Newell's Old Boys (3rd place) face a tough assignment this weekend with the visit of Estudiantes, themselves back to winning ways under new coach Leonardo Astrada. For their part, Diego Cagna's Tigre (2nd) will be looking for a maximum return from their visit to Huracan, who have accrued a mere nine points in their ten outings. Elsewhere, Boca (4th) host Rosario Central on Sunday, when they will be hoping to build on last week's superclásico victory and show their midweek Copa Sudamericana loss to Internacional, in which they fielded a weakened side, has no lasting effects.
The big game: San Lorenzo, five points clear at the top and on a run of six straight wins, visit a Racing side in dire need of points in their battle to stave off the threat of relegation. Asked in the build-up what the key to victory would be, Racing's attacking midfielder Leandro Gonzalez had this to say: "We have to attack them, hurt them and not give them a moment to think, because when they control a game they're a force to be reckoned with."
Player to watch: More precisely a squad to watch - that of River Plate. After their worst ever start to a league campaign with only eight points from ten games, they further tested the patience of their fans with a midweek loss at home to Chivas in the Copa Sudamericana. Now nothing less than victory away to fellow strugglers Gimnasia Jujuy (9 points) will appease the Millonario faithful.
American MLS: The final reckoning
Heading into the final matchday of regular season, Columbus Crew, Chicago Fire, New England Revolution, Houston Dynamo and Chivas USA have already safely qualified for the MLS Cup play-offs, with three berths still up for grabs. New York Red Bulls could have secured one of those spots on Thursday night but lost 5-2 away to Chicago Fire and must now hope Columbus Crew defeat or draw with DC United to go through. That result, however, was good news for Kansas City Wizards, who are now assured a play-off spot regardless of how they fare against New England Revolution.
The big game: The final Western Conference qualifying berth will be settled on Saturday when Colorado Rapids welcome Real Salt Lake to Denver. The Utah side will be favourites to go through, however, with a draw sufficient for them, while nothing less than victory will do for the hosts.
Player to watch: There will be plenty to keep an eye on at LA Galaxy this weekend. Could it be David Beckham's final appearance for the California side, and will Landon Donovan add to his goal tally for the campaign and take the top-scorer's award for the regular season?
Mexican Apertura: A veritable classic
With just four matchdays remaining in the group phase, this weekend will be pivotal to the aspirations of several teams hoping to make the end-of-season play-offs. Real San Luis will be hoping to consolidate their lead in Group 3 and make amends for a defeat last time out when they host Monterrey on Saturday. Also competing for attention will be the clash of Atlante and Tecos, leaders of Group 1 and 2 respectively, at the Estadio Andres Quintana Roo.
The big game: America and Guadalajara renew their classic rivalry this Sunday in the capital, with both sides in need of points to keep their play-off hopes alive. Chivas come into the tie in buoyant mood following their Sudamericana win over River Plate in midweek.
Player to watch: Omar Arellano, Chivas' 19-year-old striker, was outstanding in the club's win against River and will be hoping for more of the same against their arch-rivals.
After their superb performance in midweek to earn a place in the final of the AFC Champions League, Japan's Gamba Osaka (47 points) will be back on J-League duty this weekend with a trip to Shimizu S-Pulse. The Osaka side still entertain slim hopes of taking the title, although leaders Kashima Antlers (53 pts) look in no mood to concede ground ahead of their trip FC Tokyo. Their immediate pursuers Nagoya Grampus Eight and Oita Trinita (both on 51) face Jubilo Iwata and Vissel Kobe respectively as they look to keep the pressure on.
Finally to Egypt, where Al Alhy resume domestic duty after booking their place in the final of the CAF Champions League last weekend. This Saturday the Cairo side take on Al Ittihad in their sixth game of the season, while leaders Petrojet, who have played three games more, are away to Police Union. A point and one place behind the frontrunners are Zamalek, who will be hoping to keep their fine early season form going with a win at home to Olympic.