Manchester City suffered their second top-flight defeat of the season at West Ham as Eliaquim Mangala's struggles continued. Will Demichelis return for the Manchester derby?
Tim Stannard looks at six storylines that could unfold in Saturday's clash between Real Madrid and Barcelona. Will Messi break Zarra's La Liga record?
Ronaldo v Zlatan
Or Portugal v Sweden, however you wish to view it. The thought of either of these two superstars sitting at home in the summer while Philippe Senderos struts his stuff in Brazil is enough to make a grown man weep, but Zlatan in particular is unfazed by the play-off test that awaits. "I think that the World Cup needs Zlatan more than Ronaldo," he said. "The excitement I can bring to the game and the goals I can score - nobody can rival me for that. I believe the fans would want to see me there above anybody." It's difficult to argue with the man after his stunning goal in Sweden's victory over England last November and his remarkable quadruple in PSG's recent Champions League win over Anderlecht, but Ronaldo, tipped by many to finally win the Ballon d'Or again this year, will certainly want to have his say. The forward has already hit 24 goals for Real Madrid this season, including another hat-trick last Saturday, and he will no doubt be relishing Friday's battle of the titans.
Iceland v Croatia
'Welcome Croatia, welcome to our frozen hell' was the rather menacing greeting from one excited Icelander in the Football365 mailbox, who brought news of temperatures around minus ten as well as howling winds. Chilly. Iceland nabbed their play-off spot by picking up seven points in the last three fixtures and they are now looking to finish the job against a Croatia side somewhat in disarray following Igor Stimac's resignation. The former Derby defender has since been replaced by Niko Kovac, who will hope for an immediate improvement on Croatia's recent form that saw them fail to win any of their final four qualifying games and lose twice to Scotland. Ouch. Iceland will be ready to capitalise on any slip-ups, however, with Gylfi Sigurdsson and in-form Eredivisie trio Kolbeinn Sigporsson, Alfred Finnbogason and Johann Gudmundsson, who scored a stunning hat-trick in a 4-4 draw with Switzerland, carrying the country's hopes of reaching a first World Cup.
Republic of Ireland v Latvia
This might not seem like the most exciting match on paper, but it should hopefully be entertaining on the pitch as Roy Keane strikes the fear of God into Ireland's players from the touchline. "I am not here to try to change anyone's opinions about me or decisions I have made," said Keane at his first press conference. Oh good, we wouldn't want it any other way. It's certainly intriguing to see how Keane and fellow former Sunderland boss Martin O'Neill change the Ireland set-up following Giovanni Trapattoni's relatively successful reign. The complaint often aimed at the Italian was that he failed to show enough adventure but, as O'Neill and Keane are set to find out, there is only so much enterprise you can grind out of Paul Green and Jonathan Walters. A home match against Latvia should see the new-look Ireland kick-off with a win and hopefully provide a hint that the old rage still burns within Keane.
Italy v Germany
It's fair to say that Italy have been Germany's nemesis in recent years, winning four and drawing two of the last six meetings between the two teams, including knock-out victories at World Cup 2006 and Euro 2012. Friday's match is therefore a crucial test for Jogi Loew's side before another tough away trip against England. Loew's squad is packed with enormous talent as usual, but there are still questions over who will lead the line in Brazil next summer with the manager expected to take the opportunity to try a number of combinations in the next two matches. Mario Balotelli is in line to start for Italy ahead of Southampton's thus-far-underwhelming summer signing Pablo Osvaldo, and Germany will remember the forward's brilliant performance that saw them crash out in Poland.
Nigeria v Ethiopia
Nigeria travel to Craven Cottage on Monday for a friendly against Italy, but before that comes the small matter of their World Cup play-off second leg against Ethiopia. Emmanuel Emenike's brace helped the Super Eagles come from behind to win the first leg 2-1 in Addis Ababa and the Fenerbahce forward will carry his nation's hopes again on Saturday. "I am glad to have played in the Nations Cup and won, but I am dreaming of playing in my first World Cup for Nigeria," Emenike told FIFA.com. "Ethiopia are very good and they will be coming here with more tricks. So, we shouldn't see the first victory as the end of road." Ethiopia have been boosted by the return of striker Getaneh Kebede, who missed the first leg with a knee injury, and, with five goals so far in qualifying, he's the man Nigeria will need to contain if they are to fulfil Emenike's dream.
Matt Stanger - follow him on Twitter.