This week in nerd ish: Derbies in Mexico, Russia and Romania

Dmitry Korotayev

An odd schedule packs almost all of the best viewing outside of Europe's big four and MLS on Sunday. Russia, Mexico and Romania all have big local derbies on tap.

There's plenty of good football to be seen outside of the world's most popular leagues, if you know where to find it. While the all of Europe's big four and MLS have excellent matches on this weekend's schedule, there are some great local derbies and potential title-deciding matches on all across the globe.


Crystal Palace vs. Blackburn Rovers, 11 a.m. ET - Palace have risen up from financial dire straits to play themselves into a promotion race. They picked up their best result of the season last week, beating Leicester City away. Blackburn Rovers are going through a bit of a tumultuous time, having replaced manager Steve Kean with former Blackburn star Henning Berg, but they're still in promotion playoff places and have a squad good enough to get back into the Premier League.

The player to watch in this one is Palace's extremely talented 19-year-old forward Wilfried Zaha. If Palace don't win promotion this year, he'll be playing Premier League football next season anyway. Nerd level: Pretty high if you're not English. Highly accessible second division football is still second division football.

Dnipro Dnipropetrovsk vs. Metalist Kharkiv, 1:30 p.m. ET - Dynamo Kiev are in this year's Champions League, but these two are currently right next to them in the table and one of them could end up taking Dynamo's place in the group stage next season. Dnipro have won their last three matches in all competitions, while Metalist have won three of their last four, dropping just a cup match. Both won their most recent Europa League matches and look like good bets to get to the knockout round.

Both teams are led by talented Brazilians, a couple of whom know each other very well. Metalist's Taison and Dnipro's Giuliano were both big parts of Internacional's 2010 Copa Libertadores triumph. There should also be a great battle in the middle between Dnipro's Ruslan Rotan and Metalist's Cleiton Xavier. Nerd level: Very high. If you're finding streams of Ukranian games other than Dynamo-Shakhtar, you might have a problem.

Monterrey vs. UANL Tigres, 9 p.m. ET - In recent history, this local Monterrey derby has been between two teams at the very top of the table in Mexico. This season, it's a battle between two teams who are fighting just to make the playoffs. With so many teams in the mix for the last two Liguilla places in Mexico, a loss would basically spell the end of Tigres' hopes of finishing in the top eight. Even a draw might not be good enough. A draw would give Monterrey a good shot to make the playoffs on the final day of the regular season, while a loss would be disastrous.

Tigres have the core of their recent championship side intact, and simply need to start scoring goals. Spanish striker Luis Garcia has been a massive disappointment with just two goals in 14 starts and over 1100 minutes of game time. Monterrey also have the core of their trophy-winning sides still in place, but are struggling to adapt to life after the departure of Luis Ernesto Perez, especially since Jesus Zavala has only been fit for half the season. Nerd level: Only medium if in the Americas, where Liga MX is easily accessible on television.


CSKA Moscow vs. Lokomotiv Moscow, 4:30 a.m. ET - The Russians are going to serious lengths to make sure that people don't have very much time to get drunk and rowdy before this match. CSKA has storked into the title race with a string of three consecutive wins, while a very talented Lokomotiv side has faltered in recent matches. They're all the way down in eighth, nine points out of the title race.

This is a local derby, and it would be a good match even if Loko were a relegation fodder side. However, they're far from it, and simply in a very poor run of form. The top half of the table is tightly packed in Russia, and Loko could find themselves right back in a European place with a win. Nerd level: Astronomical, if you live in the eastern half of the United States and you set an alarm for this. Less points for west coasters, who can just flip it on when they get home from the bar.

FC Twente vs. Feyenoord, 8:30 a.m. ET - Twente have avoided defeat in their last three Eredivisie matches and are enjoying a nice resurgence in Steve McClaren's second spell with the club. Their defense is what has them on top of the table, but they've also done a solid job of replacing the goal-scoring lost in the sale of Luuk de Jong. Feyenoord are not all the way back to their glory days, but they've solidified their footballing and financial position by casting off the overpaid veterans that were the face of the club during the last decade.

Feyenoord will be in high spirits following their 90th minute equalizer against Ajax last week, but don't expect them to get a result. Twente have a perfect record in their four matches at home, and they've only allowed one goal at their own ground in the league. Nerd level: Reasonably high, but this one is on ESPN Deportes and ESPN 3.

Sao Paulo vs, Fluminense, 2 p.m. ET - Time is running out on Sao Paulo's potential Copa Libertadores qualification, as well as Atletico Mineiro's title bid. With a win on Sunday, Sao Paulo can keep themselves in the running for an automatic place in South America's biggest continental competition, while simultaneously keeping the Brasileirao title race interesting.

This match might be made less interesting if Sao Paulo opts to rest any of their stars with an eye on Copa Sudamericana. They beat Universidad de Chile in Santiago this week and might prioritize that competition over the Brasileirao. Fluminense have an eight-point lead on top of the league with five matches remaining and simply avoiding losses is good enough for them at the moment. Hopefully this is an excellent match, not a handshake draw. Nerd level: Once again, only moderately high because of the match's availability on ESPN Deportes and ESPN3.

Steaua Bucharest vs. Dinamo Bucharest, 2:30 p.m. ET - Dinamo don't look like they're going to contend for a title this season, but local derbies are always excellent. The Romanian Liga is just 13 matches old, but the title race won't look like a terribly interesting one going forward if Steaua emerge victorious from this one. They have 32 points, putting them six points up on overachievers Pandurii Targu Jiu, 10 points up on Dinamo and Vaslui and13 points ahead of both CFR Cluj and Rapid Bucharest.

If you're looking for a guy that might make a move to a big club in a big league soon, keep an eye on Steaua defender Vlad Chiriches. The 22-year-old has been capped 14 times by Romania and has reportedly drawn interest from multiple clubs in Europe's big five leagues. Nerd level: It's Romanian football, do you even have to ask?

Peñarol vs. Defensor Sporting, 3 p.m. ET - The scheduling gods have not been kind to Peñarol. They're top of the table in Uruguay thanks to a great start to the season, but they get their two main competitors for the Primera Division title in back to back weeks. Next week is the country's biggest derby, their match against Nacional, but this week's clash with Defensor Sporting is just as big in the title race.

Veteran target man Juan Manuel Olivera has been unstoppable during his second spell at Peñarol, tallying 11 goals in nine games this season. He's the most in-form player in this match, but the man to watch is Defensor's 19-year-old star Diego Rolan, who might make the move to Europe if he can prove himself against top competition in the 2013 Copa Libertadores. Nerd level: Super high. Watch it so you can tell your friends all about how good Rolan is when he moves to Porto or Ajax next summer.

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