MX23RW : Thursday, January 17 18:08:45

This weekend's biggest games in world football

Sports Mole rounds up the weekend's biggest, best and most important matches from all over the world.

With leagues around the world approaching the halfway point of the season, title races and relegation battles are beginning to take shape.

Matches continue to come thick and fast in England especially, and it promises to be a pivotal stage of the season elsewhere in Europe as clubs begin to prepare for their winter break.

For clubs in the Americas it is almost the end of their campaigns, while this weekend will also see a team crowned as the best on the planet in the final of the Club World Cup.

Here, Sports Mole rounds up all of the biggest, best and most important matches of the weekend from all corners of the globe.

Real Madrid vs. Gremio (Saturday, 5pm)

The world's best football team will be crowned this Saturday when European champions Real Madrid take on South American champions Gremio in the final of the Club World Cup in Abu Dhabi.

Madrid needed to come from behind against hosts Al Jazira on Wednesday night after Romarinho had opened the scoring shortly before half time, but second-half goals from Cristiano Ronaldo and Gareth Bale ensured that Zinedine Zidane's side would make it into the showpiece.

Ronaldo's goal extended his lead over Lionel Messi and others as the competition's leading goalscorer of all time, and victory for Madrid would also see them equal Barcelona's record tally of three triumphs at the Club World Cup, having also lifted the trophy in 2014 and 2016.

Indeed, Los Blancos are bidding to become the first team to ever retain the trophy, and the last four finals have all gone the way of the reigning Champions League holders, including three in a row for Spanish clubs.

Gremio booked their place in the tournament with a 3-1 aggregate win over Lanus in the Copa Libertadores final last month, but needed extra time to overcome CONCACAF champions Pachuca in Tuesday's semi-final.

This will be Gremio's first appearance in the Club World Cup final, and victory would see the title go to a Brazilian club for the fifth time, which would equal the record of five for Spanish clubs.

Manchester City vs. Tottenham Hotspur (Saturday, 5.30pm)

Premier League table

It looks increasingly as though it will take a miracle to prevent Manchester City from winning their third Premier League title this season, and the team which has run the champions closest in the past two campaigns will be the latest to try to stop Pep Guardiola's juggernaut on Saturday evening.

City put aside the off-field issues which emerged following their 2-1 derby victory over Manchester United to thrash Swansea City at the Liberty Stadium on Wednesday night, racking up a record 15th consecutive win in the top flight.

Having dropped just two points all season, City currently enjoy an 11-point gap to second place and are a whopping 18 clear of Tottenham, with Guardiola's side already being mentioned amongst the best teams to have ever played in the Premier League.

Spurs have begun to regain some form of their own too, though, recording back-to-back wins after only one in six league games before that and climbing into the Champions League places as a result.

Liverpool, Arsenal and surprise package Burnley are the closest challengers to Mauricio Pochettino's side as things stand, and Spurs will know that one slip-up could easily see them fall from fourth down to seventh, such is the congested nature of that part of the table.

The North London outfit have had the better of their Manchester rivals in recent times, though, winning three and losing none of the last four meetings having lost eight of their previous nine prior to that.

Lyon vs. Marseille (Sunday, 8pm)

Ligue 1 table

The Choc des Olympiques - aka The Clash of the Olympics - takes place on Sunday when Lyon host Marseille at the Groupama Stadium in a match which could have a major impact on the top of the table.

Paris Saint-Germain are nine points clear of the chasing pack, but below them three teams are locked on 35 points, with Lyon and Marseille sitting either side of champions Monaco.

With only three Champions League places available, one of those will have to miss out this season, so Sunday's contest will take on an even greater significance in the battle for a top-three place.

Lyon have alternated between victories and defeats in their last five outings across all competitions, but in Ligue 1 alone they have lost just one of their last 11 and only PSG have outscored them this season.

Marseille, meanwhile, are unbeaten in their last 12 league games stretching back to September as they bid to end a five-year wait for a top-three finish.

However, Sunday's visitors have failed to win any of their last six league games against Lyon, with four of those ending as draws, and you have to go back more than a decade for their last league win away to their Olympico rivals.

Santa Fe vs. Millonarios (Monday, 12am)

The Colombian football season comes to a close in the early hours of Monday morning as Santa Fe take on city rivals Millonarios in the second leg of the Clausura final in Bogota.

The match is not only a Bogota derby, but it also pits two of Colombian football's most successful clubs against each other, with Santa Fe bidding to retain the title they won last season while Millonarios are attempting to restore their former glories.

Once the undisputed dominant force in the country and arguably the best team in the world during a spell in the 1950s when Alfredo di Stefano was amongst their ranks, Millonarios have won just one title in the last 29 years, with that coming in 2012.

It is the visitors who go into the game with the slight advantage, though, having won the first leg 1-0 on Thursday morning to extend their unbeaten streak to 13 matches - including victory over La Equidad and America de Cali in the playoffs.

Santa Fe overcame Jaguares de Cordoba and Deportes Tolima in their playoff matches, but they have won just two of their last 10 matches, drawing seven of those and crucially losing that first leg on Thursday.

Santa Fe ended the regular season second in the table, though, three points clear of fourth-placed Millonarios and only missing out on top spot by virtue of their inferior goal difference.

Club Brugge vs. Anderlecht (Sunday, 1.30pm)

Belgian Pro League

Belgium's two most successful clubs will do battle again on Sunday afternoon, and reigning champions Anderlecht know that they need a win if they are to stay in touch with the league leaders.

Anderlecht, who have been crowned Belgian champions 34 times - 20 more than Club Brugge - currently trail this weekend's opponents by 10 points at the top of the table following defeat in another high-flying clash last weekend.

A 3-1 home loss to second-placed Sporting Charleroi was Anderlecht's fourth defeat of the season, already just one fewer than they suffered throughout the whole of their title-winning campaign last term.

Brugge have lost just one of their last 14 matches in all competitions and enjoy a six-point lead over their closest challengers this season as they look to regain the trophy they won in 2015-16.

That is their only triumph in the last 12 seasons, though, and Anderlecht certainly hold the edge in terms of experience in that regard, having lifted the trophy seven times in the same period.

Anderlecht are also unbeaten in their last four meetings with Brugge, although they have only won two of their last 10 visits to the Jan Breydelstadion.

Bolton Wanderers vs. Burton Albion (Saturday, 3pm)

Championship table

With the relegation picture beginning to take shape in the Championship, Saturday's match between Bolton Wanderers and Burton Albion looks as though it could be a six-pointer at the bottom of the table.

Bolton picked up just two points from the first 33 on offer during a dreadful start to the season, but they have since improved their form and have lost only two of their last 10 Championship outings, with three wins in that time too.

Indeed, Bolton go into this weekend's match in a position of safety, although they are still very precariously placed with only goal difference keeping them out of the relegation zone.

Burton have taken up Bolton's old position of propping up the table, picking up just one point from the last five games and recording only one win in their last 13 Championship outings.

Victory for Nigel Clough's side could see them climb out of the relegation zone, but they have scored just two goals in their last nine Championship away games and, while Bolton are without a home clean sheet this season, they are at least five games unbeaten at the Macron Stadium.

This will be the first ever league meeting between the two sides and just the second in any competition, although the previous one did see Burton win at Bolton with a 1-0 triumph in the League Cup two years ago.

Other matches to look out for

Antigua GFC vs. Municipal: The second leg of the Apertura final in Guatemala takes place on Sunday when Antigua GFC - who finished top of the regular season table - host Municipal, who finished third. Antigua have only ever won two Guatemalan titles before, but they came in the 2015 and 2016 Apertura stage so they could make it three in a row this weekend. Municipal, meanwhile, are the most successful club in Guatemalan history with 30 titles, but their 2017 Clausura crown is their only one since 2011.

Alianza vs. Santa Tecla: The Apertura stage of El Salvador's season also comes to a close on Sunday in a one-legged final between Alianza and Santa Tecla in San Salvador. Alianza would complete an unbeaten season with victory over Tecla, who finished second in the regular campaign. Only founded in 2007, Santa Tecla have enjoyed a rapid rise in El Salvador and thrashed Alianza 4-0 in the Clausura final earlier this year for their third title, whereas 11-time champions Alianza have lifted the title just once since 2011.

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