If you're coming to SBNation Soccer for content, odds are most of your other soccer web stops are focusing on Manchester United and Arsenal in England's FA Cup. And of course, we will, too, which is not to say that the football weekend stops and ends Saturday at Old Trafford. As is the case every weekend, there are a slew of great matches across the globe, including title contenders meeting in France and the Czech Republic, inner-city rivalries playing out in Roma, Vienna, Rio de Janiero and Mexico City, huge clubs with potentially season-defining matches in Chile and Argentina, while the title is decided in Australia.
You're not going to get to (or want to) watch all these matches, but these are game that can be followed without watching, featuring stories that make for good reading throughout the weekend, And if you're an office surfer, they're great fodder on Monday morning, your accompaniment to your morning coffee as you say to yourself, justifying, "everybody needs time to ease into their work week."
But who needs time to ease into a football weekend? By the time two title contenders kick it off on Friday in France, we'll want to jump in head first. And that's where we start our tour of the prominent weekend action, where the defending champions of Ligue Un will try to track down one of the three clubs between them and a repeat.
Stade Rennes versus Olympique Marseille, France's Ligue Un, 3:00 p.m. Eastern, Friday
Marseille has been rocked this week by rape allegations surrounding Brandão, something Didier Deschamps concedes is a distraction. He is unavailable indefinitely, with Tuesday's trip to Old Trafford still in doubt. Coming off a loss last weekend to league-leading Lille, l'OM could see their title hopes in need of resuscitation should they fail to improve on the 0-0 draw they "got" against Rennes in January.
In contrast, Rennes comes in with the five-match winning streak and what is easily the league's best defense, allowing only 18 goals in 26 matches. Their attack has a pedestrian 31 goals, but the January acquisition of Razak Boukari from Lens has added a needed dimension to their attack. The 23-year-old Togolese attacker has four goals in seven league matches.
Colo Colo versus Unión La Calera, Chilean Primera Division, 9:00 p.m. Eastern, Friday
Chilean titans Colo Colo got off to a disastrous start to their Apertura, going winless in their first four matches. Through seven rounds (with the team having played six times) they sit 13th out of 18 thanks to a two-match winning streak, an uptick that has coincided with Argentine Américo Gallego taking over the team. But in an embarrassing problem that surfaced mid-week, the Chilean Police has confiscated the passports of Gallego, his coaching staff, and a number of players (including Paraguayan midfielder Juan Domingo Salcedo), none of whom had the appropriate papers to be working in the country.
Now comes a visit from Unión La Calera, tied for first in the league (with Universidad Católica). With some estimates having the coaching staff (and player) out for 15 to 20 days while the problem is solved, Colo Colo is looking at a quick end to their Apertura, not to mention their Libertadores campaign (which picks up again this week, against Santos).
Viktoria Plzen versus Sparta Praha, Czech Liga, 8:20 a.m. Eastern, Saturday
You don't care, right? OK, here's my pitch: Top two teams in the Czech Liga, by a lot (Sparta's six points ahead of third). Sparta's now out of Europa, eliminated by Liverpool last week, so this is the time for their domestic push, having won both matches since the Liga resumed at the end of February.
Viktoria's draw last weekend at mid-table Slovácko has also helped. The result allowed Sparta's win over Pribram to cut the league-lead in half. Now, a win in Plzen will vault the holders top.
Players to watch, if you do find "a way" to catch the match: For Sparta, Libor Sionko and Marek Matejovsky are recognizable though 18-year-old striker Vaclav Kadlec will garner the attention of those looking for somebody who may move west; For Viktoria, Daniel Kolar and Jan Rezek each have 10 league goals, leading an attack that is averaging just under two-and-a-half goals per game.
Manchester United versus Arsenal, English FA Cup, 12:15 p.m. Eastern, Saturday
This one, you know about. Arsenal need a trophy, while United needs rest, a Tuesday match with Marseille looming over their injury-ravaged club. Arsenal is also depleted by fitness concerns, but they don't have a mid-week match.
Brisbane Roar versus Central Coast Mariners, Australian A-League, 1:00 a.m. Eastern, Sunday
The A-League final: A Major League Soccer, National Football League-esque championship match, this one featuring the season's top two finishers. Brisbane surged to first at season's end on the back of a 25-match unbeaten streak, having not lost since September. The Mariners were nine-matches unbeaten at season's end but have already lost once to the Roar in the playoffs (the top two finishers meet in the first round of the playoffs, with the winner going straight to the final, the loser getting a second crack against a club that emerges from a secondary tournament featuring the third through six place teams ... and exhale).
If Central Coast pulls an upset, it will be that special kind of eyebrow-raising playoff magic that makes you wish Bill James never invented the term sample size.
Roma versus Lazio, Italian Serie A, 10:00 a.m. Eastern, Sunday
The Derby della Capitalle, one of the best rivalries in European football, sees its second edition of the season on Sunday, and with Lazio now the club most likely to keep Roma from a return to Champions League, this meeting carries special significance. The Giallorossi are dangerously close to free fall, be it by their poor results, Vincenzo Montella unseating Claudio Ranieri, or the long awaited return of Danielle De Rossi's elbows.
Austria Wien versus Rapid Wien, Austrian Bundesliga, 11:00 a.m. Eastern, Sunday
Another derby of a capital, this one in Vienna. In my mind, this is as big as the Derby della Capitalle. My mind is also mush after a night at CJ's and three days of Charlie Sheen-level slept deprivation (without the aid of a briefcase), so I'm not making many distinctions between Vienna and Rome.
Austria has just recently taken the league lead from Sturm Graz, and while Rapid is only eight points back, they're also five places adrift. If they're to stymie their rivals and close the gap on a return to Europe, they'll need to stop Roland Linz, the 29-year-old Austria attacker whose 13 goals are second in the Bundesliga.
Flamengo versus Fluminense, Brazilian Carioca, 5:30 p.m. Eastern, Sunday
Ronaldinho and Flamengo won the first half of the Carioca, and through two rounds of the second, they look destined to claim the overall title. This weekend, however, the battle on the pitch transcends the war, with rivals and current Brasileirao champions Fluminense in their path on Sunday. These two Rio clubs have one of the most interesting rivalries in the world, with one club (Flu) being born out of the other. The two most recent champions of Brazil and have some of the biggest names in the country: Thiago Neves, Dejan Petkovic, Ronaldinho; Dario Conca, Deco, Fred.
América versus Cruz Azul, Mexican Primera Division, 6:00 p.m. Eastern, Sunday
Two of the biggest clubs in Mexico, and while the format of Mexico's tournaments make these match-ups a relatively frequent occurrence, there is still an energy to the Clasico Joven that makes it a must see-match. Is there a better way to close-out a weekend's worth of football than with two clubs of this caliber playing in front of passionate Mexico City supporters?
América comes into this match with the third-best record in Mexico but will be without Pavel Pardo. Cruz Azul is three points behind Morelia for the final automatic playoff both from the third group.
River Plate versus Vélez Sarsfield, 6:10 p.m. Eastern, Sunday
River Plate has yet to allow a goal in four Clausura matches, a rousing start to a tournament that sees them looking in the review mirror at the looming specter of relegation. With their last two shut-outs coming against Libertadores qualified Independiente and Argentinos, it may be safe to hope this River run could be for real. Vélez, another Libertadores participant, may be our last chance to doubt. If River can get three on Sunday at the Monumental, we can officially adjust our expectations.