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This weekend's biggest games in world football

As club football returns following the final international break of the year, Sports Mole picks out the matches not to be missed across the globe this weekend.

The final international break of 2017 brought with it plenty of action - if not plenty of goals - as the remaining World Cup places were filled up to complete the list of 32 teams who will be competing in Russia next year.

Club football returns with a bang this weekend, though, with huge local derbies in England, Italy and Spain involving some of Europe's best teams.

The biggest match in South American football will also take place, while at the other end of the spectrum the Lithuanian season looks set to come to a thrilling finale.

Here, Sports Mole picks out the biggest and best matches from all over the world.

Arsenal vs. Tottenham Hotspur (Saturday, 12.30pm)

Premier League table

The first North London derby of the season takes place this Saturday as Arsenal host local rivals Tottenham Hotspur at the Emirates Stadium knowing that defeat is not really an option if they are to cling on in the title race.

Defeat to Premier League leaders Manchester City before the international break means that Arsenal are now 12 points behind Pep Guardiola's side - a gap which could grow to 15 should results go against them this weekend.

Top four remains the primary target this season, but Arsenal currently sit down in sixth place with three points separating them from fourth-placed Chelsea, so even at this stage of the season this could be a make-or-break derby for Arsene Wenger's side.

Spurs are faring better than their North London neighbours, sitting level on points with Manchester United as City's closest challengers, but the relentless form of Man City means that anything other than victory could also have a big impact on their title hopes.

Mauricio Pochettino's side have won five of their last six Premier League outings and four of their five on the road this season, although their most recent away game saw them beaten by fellow title hopefuls Manchester United.

Arsenal have not beaten Tottenham in the league in their last six attempts, and this match should have a little extra spice as it will be their first meeting since Spurs ended their 22-year wait to finish above the Gunners in the table last season.

Roma vs. Lazio (Saturday, 5pm)

Serie A table

Roma will host local rivals Lazio in the Derby della Capitale this weekend as one of Europe's most fiercely-contested derby matches enters its latest chapter.

Just one point and one place separates the two sides in the Serie A table as things stand, with Lazio currently occupying the final Champions League spot and Roma hot on their heels.

Both teams have a game in hand over the three above them in the table, though, and they will go into this match at the shared Stadio Olimpico in fine form.

Roma have won their last five matches across all competitions and nine of their 11 outings in Serie A this season, also boasting the best defensive record in the division with seven clean sheets.

Lazio, meanwhile, are on a nine-match winning streak - their best run of form this century - and have dropped only five points all season.

Roma have won four of the last five Serie A meetings and only lost one of the last nine, although that did come in the corresponding fixture last season when Lazio ran out 3-1 winners.

Atletico Madrid vs. Real Madrid (Saturday, 7.45pm)

La Liga table

There is nothing to separate Atletico and Real heading into Saturday's Madrid derby, with the two sides sitting level on points in La Liga after 11 matches of the season.

Real Madrid are in the unfamiliar position of third place, though, and with eight points already separating them from arch-rivals Barcelona there is no margin for error on their first visit to the Wanda Metropolitano.

Barca's only dropped points so far this season came away to Atletico, though, so Zinedine Zidane's side will not need telling how tough it will be to come away from the home of their city rivals with maximum spoils.

The visitors have lost two of their last three games, but returned to winning ways before the international break with a 3-0 triumph over Las Palmas.

Atletico, meanwhile, are unbeaten in eight and have lost just once in their 16 outings across all competitions this season, although nine of those matches have ended in stalemates - a result which would not do either side any favours on Saturday.

Real won the corresponding fixture last season on their final league visit to the Vicente Calderon, but that is their only triumph in their past eight away games against Atletico.

Gremio vs. Lanus (Wednesday, 11.45pm)

Not exactly this weekend, but this match was too big to leave out of the list as Gremio host Lanus in the first leg of the Copa Libertadores final - the biggest match in South American football.

Gremio currently sit second in the Brazilian Serie A table and have overcome opposition from Venezuela, Chile, Paraguay, Argentina, Brazil and Ecuador already en route to the final, beating Barcelona 3-1 on aggregate in the semi-finals despite losing their home second leg 1-0.

Lanus, meanwhile, produced a memorable comeback against fellow Argentine side River Plate in their own semi-final - at one stage trailing 3-0 on aggregate before scoring four unanswered goals to win 4-3 over the two legs.

Lanus needed penalties to get past San Lorenzo in the quarter-finals and have already lost three times in this season's competition, yet have still managed to make it to the final in their first Copa Libertadores campaign since 2014.

Victory for Lanus over the two legs would see them lift the biggest prize in South American club football for the very first time, whereas Gremio are two-time Copa Libertadores champions but have not won it since 1995.

Should the Brazilian outfit come out on top then they would join Sao Paulo and Santos as the most successful Brazilian teams in the competition's history, 10 years on from losing in their last appearance in the final.

Millonarios vs. Deportivo Cali (Saturday, 11pm)

Staying in South America, Colombia's Clasico Anejo takes place this weekend as Millonarios host Deportivo Cali in the final game of the season on Saturday night.

The contest pits two of the most successful teams in Colombian football history against each other, although it is only Millonarios who have been competing for the title this season.

Santa Fe currently lead the way and enjoy a five-point gap over fourth-placed Millonarios - who at best can now only finish as high as third - whereas Deportivo find themselves down in 14th place and 10 points adrift of Saturday's hosts having lost eight of their 19 league outings in the second half of the season.

It represents a sharp decline for Deportivo, who were champions as recently as 2015, and they will be desperate to create something to cheer about with victory over the 14-time champions Millonarios in their own back yard.

The form book suggests that will not be the case, though, with Deportivo having won just one of their last eight outings across all competitions and Millonarios losing only one of their last nine.

Three of the last four meetings between these two sides have ended in 1-1 draws, but Deportivo are without a win at the home of their rivals since November 2013.

Panathinaikos vs. AEK Athens (Sunday, 5.30pm)

Greek Super League table

Two of Greece's big three meet on Sunday when Panathinaikos host AEK Athens in a local derby, and the hosts go into the game in desperate need of a win.

Panathinaikos have won four, drawn three and lost three of their opening 10 Super League matches this season, leaving them seven points adrift of the top two already and four points off even the Europa League places.

AEK, on the other hand, are currently second in the table and only being kept off top spot by surprise leaders Atromitos, who are bidding to become the first Greek champions aside from Olympiacos, Panathinaikos and AEK since 1988.

For their part, AEK have not lifted the Greek title since 1994, with every league crown since then being shared between Olympiacos and Panathinaikos, although the latter's most recent success came in 2010.

Sunday's visitors have kept four clean sheets in a row and have only lost two of their last 18 outings across all competitions, whereas Panathinaikos were beaten last time out and could lose two games in a row for the first time since May - when incidentally AEK also inflicted the second defeat.

Bragging rights have been evenly distributed between these two sides in recent years, with three wins apiece and two draws from their last eight meetings.

Maribor vs. Olimpija Ljubljana (Friday, 7.20pm)

The biggest match in Slovenian football sees Maribor host Olimpija Ljubljana on Friday night with only goal difference separating the two sides at the top of the table.

Both are well clear of the chasing pack, with a 14-point gap to third place after only 15 games of the season, but in their head-to-head battle it is still anyone's guess as to who will come out on top.

Neither have lost a game in the league yet this season, boasting identical records of 11 wins and four draws from their 15 matches, so victory for either side would come with the added bonus of inflicting a first defeat on their biggest rivals.

Olimpija have scored one more goal and conceded two fewer than Maribor to lead the way as things stand, but that could all change should the home side come out on top in this Eternal Derby of Slovenia.

These two sides actually met last Saturday in the cup too, with Olimpija running out 3-0 winners on that occasion to make it 17 games unbeaten across all competitions and four clean sheets in a row.

Maribor's Champions League participation means that they have tasted defeat more often than their inter-city rivals, but they have won six of the last seven titles whereas Olimpija have only ever been crowned champions once - in 2015-16.

Other matches to look out for

Slovan Bratislava vs. Spartak Trnava: The traditional derby of Slovakian football sees Slovan Bratislava host Spartak Trnava on Sunday looking to slow their visitors' title charge, with Trnava currently enjoying a nine-point lead at the top of the table.

Omonia Nicosia vs. APOEL: Cyprus's Nicosia derby takes place on Friday with reigning champions APOEL languishing in the bottom half of the table and Omonia only two places and two points better off in sixth.

Dinamo Zagreb vs. Lokomotiva Zagreb: By no means the biggest match in Croatian football, but a derby nonetheless. Dinamo host their Zagreb neighbours looking to continue their unbeaten start to the season and extend their 10-point lead at the top of the table.

Slavia Prague vs. Dukla Prague: Prague also hosts a derby this weekend, although it too is not the biggest city rivalry as third-placed Slavia host 11th-placed Dukla.

Red Star Belgrade vs. Rad Belgrade: Again, Belgrade boasts bigger derbies than this one on Saturday, but 15th-placed Rad will still be hoping to pull off a major shock against the league leaders.

Yeovil Town vs. Swindon Town: Yeovil host Swindon in a West Country derby on Saturday with the hosts bidding to steer clear of the relegation zone and Swindon hoping to boost their promotion hopes.

Suduva vs. Zalgiris: The Lithuanian league is in store for a blockbuster finale on Sunday as top-of-the-table Suduva host second-placed Zalgiris with just one point separating them on the final day of the season.

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Arsene Wenger watches on during the Premier League game between Everton and Arsenal on October 22, 2017
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