This week in nerd ish: Slim, extra nerdy pickings

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There aren't a lot of stellar games outside of the big four and MLS this week, but the games that we do have to watch have lots of potential for fun ... and crowd violence.

This is not a spectacular week for great off-the-radar matches, though there is one truly spectacular derby. Sunday features one of the world's biggest rivalries, which usually features some fans beating the living hell out of each other. It might be a good football match, too. But first, early Saturday matches. All times below are ET.


Urawa Reds vs. Sanfrecce Hiroshima - 12 a.m.: Sup, J-League? Sanfrecce Hiroshima are on top of the table in the J-League, just two points ahead of Vegalta Sendai. Urawa Reds are not in the title hunt, but they're a quality side who should provide a tough test for the league leaders at home.

The man to watch in this game is Hisato Sato, the leading scorer in the J-League. At 30-years-old, he's not likely to be a player that you see in Europe or in the World Cup anytime soon, but he's still fun to watch.

Aberdeen vs. Celtic - 7 a.m.: Hilariously, Celtic's SPL games are meaningful. They're not top of the table at the moment, even though they're apparently good enough to give Barcelona hell for 180 minutes, and they'll fall down to 3rd in the SPL table if they lose away to Aberdeen on Saturday. Since this game is sandwiched between an international break and a Champions League date for Celtic, that is a very real possibility.

Aberdeen's leading goal-scorer is midfielder Niall McGinn, who once went to Brentford because he was not good enough for Celtic. Scottish football is weird.

Cardiff vs Middlesborough - 10 a.m.: We've started to include Championship matches every week in this column because there seems to be a legitimately awesome match between two playoff-contending teams every week. Boro are finally back to playing some decent football and look like they could be on their way back to the Premier League. Cardiff are the same team that they've been for the last five years. They find a way to screw up the playoffs over and over again.

Spoiler alert: Even though this is an important game, and it could get really fun, these teams are not as good as the teams who have been promoted in recent seasons. A draw that lets other, more fun and talented sides catch up to them is probably good for everyone. Sorry, Cardiff and Boro fans.

Red Star vs. Partizan - 1 p.m.: This is worth your time simply because the atmosphere will be absolutely insane. This might be the fiercest rivalry in world football. Boca-River and Gala-Fener are the only ones that approach it in terms of fan animosity.

This game is also worth your time because both of these teams are pretty good at football. Red Star seems to have been caught looking ahead and has dropped their last two matches, but they're at home and they're still the second-placed team in Serbia. Partizan are the more talented side, in much better form, but those things don't always matter in derbies of this magnitude.

Leon vs. Cruz Azul - 8 p.m.: Only one of the Liga MX Liguilla quarterfinal ties remains interesting, and this is it. Away goals is the first tiebreaker in Mexico, followed by seed. In the other three ties, the higher seeded side won the first leg away from home. In this tie, higher-seeded Leon got an away goal, but lost 2-1 at Estadio Azul, setting up an intriguing second leg.

Leon was a bit conservative in the first leg, and ultimately got burned for it. Cristian Gimenez terrorized Leon with his dead ball delivery, and he could strike a 40-yard rocket from open play at any time. They'll need to attack much more than they did at Estadio Azul.


Bordeaux vs. Marseille - 3 p.m.: Quietly, Bordeaux are back to being a very solid team. They're not terribly entertaining, but they know how to scrape points. Through 12 games, they've lost just once. Marseille has also enjoyed a resurgence this year and sits second in Ligue 1, but they'll need some heroics from an unexpected source this weekend.

Jordan Ayew, Andre-Pierre Gignac and Loic Remy are all unavailable for the visitors, so they'll have to play a bit of a makeshift lineup. This game has a lot of unfortunate 0-0 potential, but it's still an important match between two quality teams.

Junior vs. Millonarios - 3:30 p.m.: Colombian football features a bit of an odd playoff system. The best eight teams get separated into two groups of four, where they play the teams in their group home and away. The two top teams from each group meet in the final to determine the league champion. The playoffs kick off this weekend, and the best match is easily the one between Millonarios and Junior.

While Millonarios finished the season on top of the table, Junior are easily the league's most intriguing team. Their attack is insanely potent, with Colombian internationals Giovani Hernandez, Dayro Moreno and Teofilo Gutierrez all in their forward ranks. Hernandez, now 36-years-old, has improbably had the best season of the three. Expect goals from Junior at home.

Velez Sarsfield vs. Boca - 5:30 p.m.: While it's probably too late for Boca Juniors to make a run towards the Argentine Primera title, they still have some time to play themselves back into Copa Libertadores. They'd do themselves (and Lanus, Newell's, Racing and Belgrano) a favor by pulling off a result against Velez over the weekend.

Velez has, in impressive fashion, found a way to recover from heavy losses of star players to better paying clubs in recent years. New signing Facundo Ferreyra and loanee Lucas Pratto are the best strike pairing in Argentina, and they're backed up by a midfield that benefits from their combination of youth and experience. For Boca, the man to watch (if he starts) is 18-year-old Leandro Daniel Paredes, one of the biggest rising stars in Argentinian football.

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