Many of the prime contenders for Europe's major league titles face tough away matches this weekend, as the finish of the season draws closer.
Bayern turn to German title
In Germany's 1. Bundesliga all of the leading four are on their travels, with the pick of the matches FC Bayern München's trip to 1. FC Kaiserslautern. Bayern, now safely into the quarter-finals of the UEFA Champions League, are able to fully concentrate on their bid to retain their German title.
But Kaiserslautern, fifth in the table, could overtake third-placed Bayern by winning, and will be looking for revenge after the 4-1 October defeat in Munich that cost them their early Bundesliga lead. Bayern's Niko Kovac, close to return after injury, is in no doubt of the importance of the fixture. "The crucial game is on Saturday," he said. "If we can win away to Kaiserslautern, then we will be in a good position."
No easy matches for leaders
Current leaders Bayer 04 Leverkusen go to the defensively-mean VfB Stuttgart on Saturday, second-placed BV Borussia Dortmund have a Sunday trip to struggling SC Freiburg, and FC Schalke 04, in fourth, are at TSV 1860 München.
London trip for Manchester United
Manchester United FC's attempt to win a fourth consecutive English FA Premiership crown takes them to West Ham United FC on Saturday. United looked dead and buried in the title race when a home defeat by West Ham in December left them eleven points off the summit. With Arsenal FC hoping for a United slip-up to allow them to go top on Sunday when they go to Aston Villa FC, Sir Alex Ferguson's team will seek a better result this time round, on a ground where they remain unbeaten since the Premiership was formed.
Liverpool hope for top spot
Third-placed Liverpool FC could also take the top place if they win at Middlesbrough FC, while their struggling neighbours Everton FC hope new manager David Moyes will bring them a change of luck at home to Fulham FC.
Valencia could extend lead
In Spain the critical game is the Camp Nou meeting of Barcelona and FC Real Madrid, but leaders Valencia CF's trip to Rayo Vallecano could prove just as decisive in the battle for the Primera División. Valencia could be four points clear at the top if they win and Madrid lose - and in the context of how close this Spanish season has been, that could prove a telling advantage.
Barcelona defend unbeaten run
Madrid have not won a league match at Barcelona's stadium since 1983/84, but having sailed through their Champions League group - unlike their Catalonian rivals - will fancy ending that run to add to their ongoing centenary celebrations. The little matter of virtually ending Barça's title hopes with victory will not have escaped their attention as well.
Lens close in on title
In France, first division leaders RC Lens could stretch their lead over Olympique Lyonnais to nine points with just five games left with an away win over sixth-placed FC Girondins de Bordeaux. Their hosts are still in contention for a Champions League place for finishing third, so Lens will have to play as well as they have this season to keep their good domestic run going. Lyon's task is a tricky trip to Lille OSC, currently fifth, while champions FC Nantes Atlantique - having rested players in Wednesday's Champions League draw with Boavista FC - will look to increase their survival prospects away at AS Monaco FC.
All of the top three in Italy's Serie A had disappointing midweek results in European competition, but none will be intimidated by their domestic opponents. Leaders AS Roma host Atalanta BC on Saturday ahead of their decisive Champions League match at Liverpool FC, while on Sunday Juventus FC are at home to Hellas-Verona FC and Internazionale FC - who travel to Valencia in the UEFA Cup on Thursday - are at struggling US Lecce.
The Romanian first division programme is dominated by two matches - second-placed FC Steaua Bucuresti's visit to FC Universitatea Craiova on Saturday and Sunday's derby between leaders FC Dinamo Bucuresti and FC Rapid Bucuresti, currently fourth.
Dynamo and Shakhtar resume tussle
Ukraine's winter break ends on Saturday, with home games against the bottom two for joint leaders FC Dynamo Kyiv and FC Shakhtar Donetsk. Dynamo - ahead on goal difference prior to the restart - host FC Zakarpattya Uzhgoord, while Shakhtar meet FC Vorskla Poltava.
It is also back to business in Moldova where FC Sheriff Tiraspol restart the campaign with a a nine-point lead over second-placed FC Zimbru Chisinau. The Chisinau club, runners-up last term, are involved in the game of the day - a derby match against FC Agro Chisinau.
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