This weekend's biggest games in world football

Sports Mole picks out the biggest and best matches from all over the world to keep an eye out for this weekend and beyond.

Another fascinating Champions League gameweek has been and gone, with Manchester United falling to a shock defeat, Sevilla producing a memorable comeback to draw with Liverpool and Paris Saint-Germain running wild against Celtic among the most notable headlines.

Domestic action returns this weekend, though, and once again there are plenty of huge fixtures taking place in various leagues around the world.

Two of England's biggest clubs go head to head, the top two face off in both France and Spain and arguably the biggest rivalry in German football enters its latest chapter across the weekend - not to mention the climax of the Copa Libertadores final.

Here, Sports Mole picks out the biggest and best upcoming matches from all corners of the globe.



Racing Club vs. Independiente (Sunday, 12.30am)

Second only to the Superclasico between River Plate and Boca Juniors in terms of intense Argentine football rivalries, Racing Club versus Independiente is another fiercely-contested Buenos Aires battle.

The Avellaneda derby has a history of violence amongst both players and fans, and just 11 years ago there were such serious riots that it resulted in the Argentine FA banning all away supporters in the top four tiers of football in the country, while Racing were even banned from their own stadium.

The third and fourth most successful teams in Argentina's history, both clubs have been through a relatively fallow period in recent years, with Racing's 2014 title the first either had lifted since Independiente in 2002.

Racing moved one ahead of their great rivals with 17 titles courtesy of that, but even at this early stage of the season it looks unlikely that either will challenge for honours this term.

Racing have won just two of their last 11 outings in all competitions and find themselves 16th in the table with only 12 points from their opening nine games - half as many as leaders Boca Juniors have amassed.

Independiente are eight places and three points better off and have lost just one of their last eight games in all competitions, although that did come in their most recent outing and they have only won once at the home of their fiercest rivals since 2009.



Borussia Dortmund vs. Schalke 04 (Saturday, 2.30pm)

Bundesliga table

Bayern Munich may have been the dominant force in German football down the years, but the biggest rivalry is between Borussia Dortmund and Schalke 04.

Just 20 miles separate Dortmund and Gelsenkirchen, meaning that this Ruhr derby carries all the intensity and associated bragging rights of a local rivalry.

In recent years it is Dortmund who have come out on top, with Schalke finishing above their greatest rivals just once in the past seven seasons, but the team in Royal Blue look like they have a good chance to improve that statistic this season.

Domenico Tedesco's side are second in the Bundesliga table behind only Bayern Munich, and they make the short trip to the Westfalenstadion as the form team too, having gone seven games unbeaten across all competitions, including five wins.

Dortmund, by contrast, are without a win in their last five competitive fixtures and their only victory in any competition since September came against third-tier Magdeburg in the DFB-Pokal.

Schalke have not won any of the last five meetings between these two sides, though, and you have to go back to 2012 for their last triumph at Signal-Iduna Park.



Liverpool vs. Chelsea (Saturday, 5.30pm)

Premier League table

One of the defining Premier League rivalries since the turn of the century, Liverpool and Chelsea will renew hostilities on Saturday when the Reds welcome the Premier League champions to Anfield.

Liverpool will need to bounce back from their midweek collapse against Sevilla in which they squandered a commanding 3-0 lead at the Estadio Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan, conceding a last-minute equaliser to only come away from the match with a share of the spoils.

Chelsea had no such troubles as they recorded a second consecutive away 4-0 win over Qarabag, meaning that they have now won seven of their last eight matches across all competitions to climb up to third in the Premier League table.

Liverpool are two places and three points worse off, but even accounting for Tuesday's draw they are in good form themselves, winning four and losing none of their last five outings following a significant wobble in September and October.

The Reds are also unbeaten in front of their own fans in nine matches this season, winning each of the last three by a three-goal margin and keeping four clean sheets on the bounce.

Chelsea will be out for revenge having lost on their own patch against Liverpool last season, but they have not beaten the Reds inside normal time in the last seven competitive meetings between the two sides - stretching back to November 2014.



Monaco vs. Paris Saint Germain (Sunday, 8pm)

Ligue 1 table

Last season's top two and the Ligue 1 frontrunners this time around too, Monaco and Paris Saint-Germain have developed a rivalry in recent years simply because they have been the two best teams in French football.

Monaco's own previous free-spending ways have been blown out of the water by PSG in recent years, forcing the principality club to reinvent themselves with young players who have gone on to become big stars.

The likes of Benjamin Mendy, Tiemoue Bakayoko, Bernardo Silva and Kylian Mbappe all left the club during the summer - the latter on loan to PSG before completing a £166m switch at the end of this season - having helped Monaco lift their first Ligue 1 title since 2000 and reach the semi-finals of the Champions League last season.

It ended PSG's four-year dominance of French football, but the capital outfit responded by bringing in the likes of Neymar and Mbappe, and subsequently they have dropped just four points all season to build a six-point lead over Monaco after 13 games.

Sunday's visitors will arrive at the Stade Louis II in stunning form having not lost since April, going 19 matches unbeaten this season alone and scoring 69 goals along the way - a staggering average of more than 3.6 goals per game.

The last three fixtures between the two sides have all ended in victory for PSG too, although Monaco are unbeaten in the last three league meetings.



Lanus vs. Gremio (Wednesday, 11.45pm)

We will have to wait a little bit longer for this match, but it should be worth the wait as Lanus host Gremio in the biggest match in South American football.

Wednesday sees the final of the Copa Libertadores come to its conclusion, and it is the Brazilian outfit Gremio who go into the second leg with a slight advantage over their Argentine rivals.

Cicero's 83rd-minute goal off the bench gave Gremio a 1-0 win in the first leg earlier this week, and they must now look to defend that at the Estadio Ciudad de Lanus if they are to lift the title for the first time since 1995.

Doing so would put Gremio level with Sao Paulo and Santos as the most successful Brazilian clubs in the competition's history with three titles apiece, whereas Lanus had never even made it to the final before this year.

The Argentine outfit do not go into the match in great form either, having lost five of their last six matches across all competitions, including their last three in a row to leave themselves 17th in the Superliga table.

The solitary win during all those defeats was a memorable one, though, as they recovered from a 3-0 aggregate deficit to beat River Plate 4-3 in the semi-finals of this competition, and they have won their last five home games in the Copa Libertadores.



Valencia vs. Barcelona (Sunday, 7.45pm)

La Liga table

La Liga's top two go head to head on Sunday evening in a battle between two sides in fine form - including one surprise package in the Spanish top flight this season.

After back-to-back 12th-place finishes in the past two campaigns, Valencia have done their best to keep pace with the leaders so far and have dropped just six points all season to establish themselves as Barca's closest challengers.

A remarkable run of nine consecutive wins across all competitions and 13 games unbeaten all season has helped to lift Marcelino's side six points clear of both Atletico Madrid and Real Madrid, and eight above fifth-placed Sevilla.

Even so, Sunday's hosts remain four points adrift of Barcelona, who themselves have dropped only two points from their opening 12 games, with those coming on their first ever visit to Atletico's new Wanda Metropolitano Stadium.

The Blaugrana remain unbeaten since their back-to-back Super Cup defeats at the hands of Real Madrid, winning 15 of their 18 matches across all competitions in the meantime.

Barca have also only lost two of their last 23 matches against Valencia across all competitions, and you have to go back more than a decade to February 2007 for Valencia's last home league win over Sunday's opponents.



Other matches to look out for

Spartak Moscow vs. Zenit St Petersburg: The Moscow vs. St Petersburg rivalry resumes on Monday night when champions Spartak represent the capital knowing that defeat could leave them 11 points adrift of leaders Lokomotiv Moscow and eight behind second-placed Zenit.

Zeljeznicar Sarajevo vs. Sarajevo: The Sarajevo derby takes place on Sunday with just two places and three points separating the title-chasing duo. Hosts Zeljeznicar currently sit second, while Sarajevo are fourth.

Olimpik Donetsk vs. Shakhtar Donetsk: These Donetsk rivals sit third and first respectively in the Ukrainian Premier League, although defending champions Shakhtar are seven points clear of their less renowned neighbours.

Brighton & Hove Albion vs. Crystal Palace: One of the stranger rivalries in English football, this M23 derby really began to matter as both clubs rose from the Third Division to the First Division in quick succession during the 1970s. Now both back in the big time, they meet on Tuesday for the first time since 2013.

Barnsley vs. Leeds United: Out-of-form Leeds United have seen their playoff hopes fade in recent weeks and will be desperate to get them back on track when they make the trip to 17th-placed Barnsley for this Yorkshire derby on Saturday.

Dinamo Tbilisi vs. Torpedo Kutaisi: Not the most glamorous fixture of the weekend, but perhaps the most important. The top two in Georgia face each on the final day of the season with both still in with a chance of winning the title. Tbilisi simply need to avoid defeat to lift the title, but victory for Kutaisi would be enough to hand them their first league crown since 2001-02.

Leon Goretzka in action for Germany in July 2017
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Tables
TeamPWDLFAGDPTS
1Manchester CityMan City18171056124452
2Manchester UnitedMan Utd17122337112638
3Chelsea18122432141838
4Arsenal18103531201133
5Burnley189541612432
6Liverpool1787234201431
7Tottenham HotspurSpurs1894531181331
8Leicester CityLeicester187562726126
9Watford186482733-622
10Everton176472129-822
11Huddersfield TownHuddersfield186391630-1421
12Southampton184681724-718
13Brighton & Hove AlbionBrighton184681423-918
14Crystal Palace184591528-1317
15West Ham UnitedWest Ham184591732-1517
16Bournemouth174491520-516
17Stoke CityStoke1844101939-2016
18Newcastle UnitedNewcastle1843111627-1115
19West Bromwich AlbionWest Brom172871222-1014
20Swansea CitySwansea173311922-1312
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