Once again, almost all of the good football has been loaded onto Sunday. Of this week's eight best off-the-radar matches, one of them takes place on Friday night, one is on Saturday and the other six take place throughout the day on Sunday. That's also when the Rome Derby, the best two Premier League games of the week and two MLS playoff games are going on, so we recommend doing nothing but watching soccer that day.
Monarcas Morelia vs. Santos Laguna - 9:30 p.m. ET: Going into the final day of the Liga MX regular season, four teams in Liguilla places are in danger of dropping out of the top eight, while five teams that are on the outside looking in have not yet been mathematically eliminated. Due to the tight bunching of the mid-table teams in Mexico this season, it would be surprising if there were no changes in the Liguilla places between Jornada 16 and 17.
The game with the most Liguilla implications is Friday night's game between Monarcas Morelia, who sit in sixth place, and Santos Laguna, who are in eighth place. The three teams immediately behind Santos have a better goal differential than they do and one more team is only behind by two goals, so they're basically playing themselves out of a Liguilla place with a road loss. It would be stunning to see both Jaguares and Monterrey fail to draw, while Tigres and Atlante also both fail to win. Morelia will virtually clinch a spot with a draw.
Cardiff City vs. Hull City - 10 a.m. ET: Yes, Hull are back into the promotion race. The days of lavish spending on injured players and Phil Brown treating his players like children are over at The Circle. They're currently in fourth place in the Championship, and face a serious test when they go away to third-placed Cardiff.
It's been a rough could of weeks (and seasons) for the Welsh outfit. They've been in the top two spots for most of the season, but have lost their last two games in a row. Last weekend, in a thriller, they scored twice in stoppage time, but failed to get a result in a 5-4 loss to Charlton. Hull have won their last three games in a row, but are generally getting by on picking up good results against bad teams.
Vitesse vs. FC Twente - 6:30 a.m. ET: With a slew of Chelsea loanees leading the way, Vitesse have surged into the top three in the Eredivisie. They were extremely impressive last weekend, posting a 2-0 victory over Ajax in Amsterdam. Twente, meanwhile, have played consistently all season long and look to be headed back to glory in Steve McClaren's second spell with the club.
The guys to watch in this one are Vitesse's two fullbacks, Tomas Kalas and Patrick van Aanholt, both on loan from Chelsea. Kalas, in particular, is an absolutely incredible talent who Chelsea will need to make room in their team for sooner rather than later. He's still very raw at 19-years-old, but he can play right back or center back, and his athleticism is jaw-dropping.
Anderlecht vs. Club Brugge - 8:30 a.m. ET: A month ago, this looked like it was going to be a truly marquee fixture between the first and second placed teams in Belgium. Unfortunately, Brugge has fallen off a cliff and is all the way down in eighth place. Still, they're a solid side, and this is a great rivalry.
Anderlecht are currently fighting Zulte-Waregem (really) for the top spot in the Belgian Pro League, thanks to that side's positive result against Brugge last week. Because Brugge have been so poor as of late, this match might end up being a poor one, but Brugge had such a long run of great form early in the season. Maybe this game can spark their campaign back to life?
FC Copenhagen vs. Aalborg - 1 p.m. ET: In anticipation of this big match, Copenhagen were far from their best in the Europa League on Thursday, but they've been on a tear domestically. Last week, they downed fourth-placed AGF on the road. Aalborg sit third in the Danish Superliga, but their form has been less impressive lately. They've dropped their last two in a row, and also lost in the domestic cup midweek.
If you're looking for a player to watch that might make their way to a bigger league soon, watch out for Copenhagen striker Andreas Cornelius. He's just 19-years-old, and he's scored 10 goals this year. Aalborg's 21-year-old striker Nicklas Helenius is also having a great season, and has already been capped by the Danish senior side.
Gremio vs. Sao Paulo - 2 p.m. ET: Sao Paulo trails Gremio by four points in the Brasileirao table, and will need to make up that gap over the next four games if they want to qualify for Copa Libertadores directly and avoid the qualifying round of the tournament.
That is, unless they win Copa Sudamericana. The second leg of their quarterfinal tie against Universidad de Chile is in the middle of the week, and they may just opt to rest players with a view towards that match. Because that possibility exists, this game could be a complete stinker, but it'll be a fantastic match if Sao Paulo plays their first team. Keep an eye on Gremio's Fernando, who has recently broken into Brazil's senior side.
Viktoria Plzen vs. Sigma Olomouc - 2 p.m. ET: Not familiar with Sigma Olomouc? That's okay, no one's going to blame you, but they're currently on top of the Czech league. They haven't lost since their first game of the season, all the way back in July. Veteran target man Michal Ordos, whose previous high for goals in a season was 12, already has 12 goals in 13 games this year.
Plzen, meanwhile, sits in third place and is having a very strong Europa League campaign. They have their sights set on a return to Champions League, and they'll shoot past Sigma Olomouc in the table while putting some cushion between themselves and Sparta Prague with a win on Sunday.
Peñarol vs. Nacional - 3 p.m. ET: Apparently, Nacional's been looking forward to this massive derby match for two weeks. They've thrown away their lead in the Uruguayan Primera with two straight losses, but they're still just four points behind their fierce rivals and league leaders Peñarol.
Last week, Peñarol won another huge match, defeating Defensor Sporting 2-1. Having to face their two main rivals for the title in back-to-back weeks is brutal, but everything that they've done so far suggests that they're up to the challenge. They haven't lost since the first day of the season, when they dropped a 4-3 thriller on the road to Fenix. The veteran (okay, old) makeup of both of these teams should make for a great match, though one key youngster's absence will be felt considerably. 19-year-old Nacional star Gonzalo Bueno is suspended after he was sent off in last week's match.