Here at SBNation, there are five leagues that get the most attention. The English Premier League, La Liga, Serie A, Bundesliga, and Major League Soccer. This is for both practical and commercial reasons. Not only is that the stuff that generates the most traffic for us, but it's also the stuff that lots of people cover in English. It's pretty easy for us to find high quality writers who cover those five leagues. By default, they have become the "Big Five" when it comes to footy coverage in the English language.
There is football outside the big five, though, and it deserves coverage, too. We know that it's tough for people to keep up on all of the football around the world, so this weekly feature is going to fill you in on the best of the best from the rest of the world of football. No one's asking even the most educated of football fans to have a thorough knowledge of every league in the world, but if you watched that one big game from Holland, Turkey, Argentina, etc., you can impress the hell out of your friends and sound way more worldly than you actually are.
Every week in "Big Five Outside The Big Five," we'll be telling you about five matches from the rest of the world that will be worth your time to watch. We'll try not to double up on any one league, but Holland's two best matches of the week are almost inarguably among the most interesting in the world.
5. Gremio vs. Atletico Paranaense
Saturday, 4:30 pm ET
Three rounds remain in the Brasileiro and both Gremio and Atletico Paranaense sit just outside of Copa Libertadores places. Gremio are in sixth place while incredibly, Atletico Paranaense sit in fifth despite a negative goal differential. Fourth place is the goal for both sides, and neither is far away. Atletico Paranaense are only outside of Copa by goal differential, while Gremio are two points behind.
Atletico Paranaense's nickname is the Hurricane, but they've been far from fierce this season. They've scored just 40 goals in 35 games, a very low tally for a team sitting in the top five. They have been good as of late, though, winning their last three matches in a row. Gremio are also on a solid run of form, taking seven points from their last three matches. The side from Porto Alegre does not share their opponents' goal-scoring woes, having picked up 59 goals this year. An impressive 21 of those have come from their leading scorer, Jonas. Atletico Paranaense does not have a double digit scorer.
When the two teams met in August, they played to a 1-1 draw in a rough game with seven yellow cards. With Copa Libertadores on the line, don't expect a reduction in discipline from the official. Gremio's goal-scoring prowess is likely to shine through at home and the Hurricane will struggle to deal with the strike pairing of Jonas and Andre Lima.
Prediction: Gremio 2, Atletico Paranaense 1
4. Twente Enschede vs. AZ Alkmaar
Saturday, 1:45 pm ET
PSV look like the cream of the crop in Holland with their 31 goal differential, but AZ and Twente will certainly be challenging down the stretch for Champions League spots. They're certainly not out of a title race, either, since Ajax managed to lose the title last year despite scoring 100 goals. Twente and AZ currently sit in second and fifth places respectably and will be looking to improve their positions this weekend.
Twente are led by their superb attacking trio of Marc Janko, Luuk de Jong, and Bryan Ruiz. The three have combined for 17 goals in the league this season and their skill sets compliment each other very well. Janko is a true target man at 6'5" while Ruiz and de Jong have the pace and technical ability to play on the wings while also possessing the size and finishing ability to have an impact up top.
AZ have less firepower up top, but target strikers Jonathas and Graziano Pelle have proven competent. AZ get the job done with their midfield, anchored by Stijn Schaars. They beat Ajax last week by shutting them down in the middle and getting a little lucky, not by beating them with an abundance of attacking talent. It seems unlikely that they'll be able to do this in consecutive weeks, though, and Twente's top strikers should prevail.
Prediction: Twente 2, AZ 0
3. CSKA Moscow vs. Spartak Moscow
Saturday, 6 am ET
With only two rounds remaining in the Russian Premier League season, these teams aren't exactly fighting each other for positioning in the table, but that doesn't make this match any less intriguing. It's a local derby featuring some really, really good players. Some of the future stars of the sport, coming soon to a big four European league near you will be featured in this matchup, and it's worth watching for the players on display alone, form or place in the table aside.
There are European places at stake, though. CSKA have Rubin Kazan breathing down their necks and might need to take four points from their last two matches to ensure automatic qualification for the UEFA Champions League. Spartak are only ahead of Lokomotiv Moscow on goal differential for the final Europa League place, and Loko will be favorites this weekend against Rostov.
Spartak's Ari has been out injured for a couple of matches, but Welliton hasn't been slowed down much by the loss of his partner in crime. He has two goals in Spartak's last three matches, although he failed to score in a 0-0 draw last weekend. CSKA has some big time talent of their own, with Keisuke Honda and young Tomas Necid impressing the critics thus far.
I'm also yet to mention Aiden McGeady, Marek Suchy, Vagner Love, Alan Dzagoev, Mark Gonzalez, Seydou Doumbia, Igor Akinfeev, or the Berezutsky brothers. Simply put, this team is loaded with top quality talent that would be worth watching even if neither team was in contention for Europe. Set your alarm and check this one out before the North London Derby.
Prediction: CSKA Moscow 3, Spartak Moscow 1
2. Club America vs. San Luis
Saturday, 8pm ET, Telefutura
America and San Luis battled all Apertura long for the top spot in Group Two and have been forced to continue their battle in Liguilla, Mexico's playoffs. America and San Luis are the fourth and fifth seeds in the tournament, and this is the second leg of their quarterfinal tie. The first match was a 0-0 draw in San Luis, but it was hardly a boring 0-0. Both goalkeepers, Cesar Lozano and Memo Ochoa, were forced into multiple spectacular saves. In the first round of Liguilla, the higher seeded team advances in the event of a tie, so San Luis must win at Estadio Azteca to advance.
In both the last regular season game against Pumas and the first leg of their Liguilla tie, America's finishing has been poor. Unless the defense holds San Luis scoreless, which seems unlikely based on how aggressive the visitors are likely to be, Vicente Vuoso has to up his game for America and hit the back of the net. The absence of playmaker Daniel Montenegro has also shown for America and they'll be hoping he can get fit for Saturday's match. San Luis are very capable of getting the win Saturday, but the fact that America just needs a draw gives them the upper hand. America will likely play for that draw.
Prediction: Club America 1, San Luis 1. America advances to the Liguilla semifinals.
1. Ajax Amsterdam vs. PSV Eindhoven
Saturday, 2:45 pm ET, ESPN3.com
If the names PSV and Ajax aren't enough to convince you that this match is worth watching, what does the fact that the teams are first and third in the table do for you? Not enough? Okay, World Cup star Luis Suarez will be starting for Ajax. Still not good enough? PSV did this in a game earlier this season. If you don't want to watch that team, you don't like football.
PSV is stacked with attacking talent. Swedish international Ola Toivonen has been spectacular, along with winger Balazs Dzsudzsak (that's a mouthful) and Barca-bound Ibrahim Afellay. Ajax features the aforementioned Luis Suarez, along with Mounir El Hamadaoui, who has 11 goals in 14 games this season. This game is probably worth watching for anyone that enjoys goals and loathes 0-0 matches of any kind.
This match should have goals. Lots of them. I like PSV to score at least one more than Ajax, they're just too loaded and too in sync this season.
Prediction: Ajax 2, PSV 3