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Local pride at stake in Spain, France, Russia

Published: Friday 28 March 2014, 9.43CET
Bragging rights (and more) are on offer in the Catalan derby and Derby de la Loire et du Rhône, while there are heavyweight clashes in England, Poland, Hungary and the Netherlands.

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Published: Friday 28 March 2014, 9.43CET

Local pride at stake in Spain, France, Russia

Bragging rights (and more) are on offer in the Catalan derby and Derby de la Loire et du Rhône, while there are heavyweight clashes in England, Poland, Hungary and the Netherlands.

Poland: Legia Warszawa v KKS Lech Poznań (Saturday 15.30)
Table toppers Legia, who on Monday posted their 1,000th Ekstraklasa win with a 2-1 victory at GKS Piast Gliwice, enter the 'Derby of Poland' four points above second-placed Lech with three games left until the top eight form a championship group for the last seven rounds. "The Lech match is the most important of the season," said Legia winger Jakub Kosecki. "If I play, I will give 300% or even 400. I like playing Lech because last season I got the winner in the away game and earned the penalty at home which led to our winner and finally gave us the title. I don't disappoint in big games – this is one of my qualities."

Spain: RCD Espanyol v FC Barcelona (Saturday 16.00)
Espanyol may be eighth in the Liga but coach Javier Aguirre says the Periquitos will be "looking to ensure top-flight safety" when second-placed Barcelona come calling for this weekend's Catalan derby. The Blaugrana are in a rich vein of form having won their last four matches in all competitions, not least last weekend's Clásico at Real Madrid CF.

Nonetheless, former Spain forward Sergio García insists Espanyol will strive to build on their midweek triumph at Málaga CF. "We're having a very good season and imagine if we could now beat our eternal rivals at home – that would be fantastic," he said. Barcelona, a point off leaders Club Atlético de Madrid, would disagree.

England: Arsenal FC v Manchester City FC (Saturday 18.30)
The Gunners' title hopes have evaporated in recent weeks, to the extent where they approach this fixture focusing as much behind them, on in-form Everton FC, as on the three teams above. A run of two wins in seven Premier League games has taken Arsène Wenger's men from top spot in early February to six points adrift of leaders Chelsea FC, who bloodied Arsenal noses with last weekend's 6-0 demolition.

Third-placed City are only three points above the north Londoners yet have two matches in hand and, crucially, are on an upward trajectory exemplified by Tuesday's dismantling of Manchester United FC at Old Trafford. "Man City look a bit unstoppable," said Wenger, whose team lost the reverse fixture 6-3. "They and Chelsea are favourites for the title. At the moment it [the title] is not the biggest worry we have. We have to be realistic. We have to look behind us and, of course, try to look in front."

France: Olympique Lyonnais v AS Saint-Étienne (Sunday 21.00)
The Derby de la Loire et du Rhône completes the 31st round of Ligue 1 fixtures – and there is more than local pride to play for. Les Verts occupy fourth spot, three points above Lyon in fifth, and victory would give them a handsome cushion while keeping up the pressure on LOSC Lille in third.

However, OL have lost just once in their last ten home league games against St-Étienne, and an exclusively home crowd will be daunting at Stade de Gerland. "We still have many objectives," said Lyon's Steed Malbranque, whose side face Juventus in the UEFA Europa League quarter-finals. "We play football for games like these. We are three points behind St-Étienne – it spices things up even more."

Russia: FC Lokomotiv Moskva v FC Spartak Moskva (Sunday 11.30)
The visitors will hope form counts for little when they lock horns with the Russian Premier-Liga frontrunners in Sunday's capital derby. Indeed, third-placed Spartak have been wobbling and dropped seven points off the pace after being humbled 4-0 at FC Krasnodar last time out, days after dismissing coach Valeri Karpin.

The hosts, meanwhile, are three points ahead of FC Zenit in second, though talk of landing a first league crown since 2004 is premature according to Aleksandr Samedov. "We don't discuss the possibility of the title. Everyone is focused on Sunday's game. There are no favourites and everyone is desperate for three points," the winger said.

Netherlands: AFC Ajax v FC Twente (Sunday 14.30)
First hosts third in the Eredivisie as champions Ajax seek to take another step towards a record fourth straight title under coach Frank de Boer. Back-to-back draws have slowed the procession in recent weeks, and defeat by Twente would leave the championship race wide open going into the last five games. Win, though, and Ajax could be nine points clear depending how second-ranked PSV Eindhoven do at home to FC Groningen.

Twente have also stuttered of late, though last week's 2-1 victory over AZ Alkmaar brought renewed hope. "I'm looking forward to it," said Twente defender Cuco Martina. "We are still aiming for top spot so we have only one thing on our minds: to win. We have talked about it and are all on the same page. These are the matches you want to play as a footballer."

Hungary: Videoton FC v Debreceni VSC (Sunday 16.30)
Debrecen can tighten their grip on the Hungarian First League trophy with victory over their nearest challengers, yet know any slip-up could reopen the title race. With nine matches remaining, Elemér Kondás's team are seven points clear of 2011 champions Videoton, with holders Győr ETO FC a point further back.

Recent form further stacks the odds in the pacesetters' favour. Second-placed Videoton have won one in nine in all competitions; Debrecen, chasing a domestic treble, have not lost in the league since 22 September, though they are shorn of injured trio Norbert Mészáros, Selim Bouadla and Zoltán Nagy.

All times CET

Last updated: 28/03/14 13.43CET