Qualification for next summer's FIFA World Cup in Brazil resumes on Friday with matches in eight of the nine groups.
While Group D − where the Netherlands have yet to drop a point after six games − takes a back seat until September, a number of other countries have the opportunity to strike out on their own at the top of their sections.
Of the 32 teams in action on Friday, Russia are among the best placed. Fabio Capello's side lead Group F by a point from Israel and Portugal, both of whom have played two fixtures more. With Israel not involved in the latest round of internationals, the frontrunners can put plenty of daylight between themselves and their pursuers with victory in Lisbon.
Italy and Montenegro are in a similar situation in Group B and H respectively. The Azzurri, who have a game in hand on second-placed Bulgaria, can extend their advantage to a healthy six points by winning in the Czech Republic, though the Czechs will move second if they inflict a first defeat of the campaign on Cesare Prandelli's men. Montenegro host Ukraine in their 50th international mindful they can increase their buffer over England, who resume their bid in September, to five points.
Switzerland, Iceland and Albania – separated by two points and all at home – each have designs on ending the weekend at the Group E summit, while in Group A, Belgium and Croatia continue their duel for top spot. The teams' only dropped points came when they met in September. Croatia, in second, face struggling Scotland and the Red Devils welcome Serbia.
In Group G, pacesetters Bosnia and Herzegovina will look to build on their March triumph over Greece, who encounter Lithuania, when they play Latvia in Riga. Finally in Group C, second meets third as Sweden tackle Austria in a key game in the race for a potential play-off berth. The Republic of Ireland, unbeaten in five outings this year, will strengthen their prospects if they condemn the Faroe Islands to a fifth successive loss.
A list of Friday's 16 matches, and the three taking place on Tuesday, can be found here.
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