Tight finish to leagues adds to tension
The tight finish in all of Europe's major leagues is raising the temperature of an already heated build-up to the World Cup finals.
As if national coaches did not have enough to worry them already with players risking injury doing battle for their clubs, the fact that the race in the top league championships is going to the wire gives no-one the chance to hold back.
The Italian league season could end this weekend, only a little less than a month before the South Korea/Japan World Cup finals kick off on May 31.
But Italy coach Giovanni Trapattoni faces the prospect of the Serie A title race going into a playoff if two teams finish equal on points at the top of the standings. Goal difference and goals scored are not taken into account.
Three teams are in with a chance of the title on the last day. Inter Milan lead with 69 points, Juventus are a point behind and third-placed Roma are on 67.
"Selfishly, as coach of the national team I hope that we don't go down to playoffs," Trapattoni told Italian television.
Italian and other internationals feature prominently in the top Italian teams.
In Serie A there are also playoffs for teams that finish level on points for European qualification places and relegation.
Two-legged playoffs scheduled for May 9 and 12 would shorten the time players have to rest before they begin World Cup training.
But as Juventus face the second leg of the Italian Cup on May 11, any playoff involving the Turin team will be a one-legged affair on May 8 at a neutral venue.
The German league is also going to the wire this weekend.
Only two points separate leaders Borussia Dortmund, second placed Bayer Leverkusen who are also involved in a Champions League semifinal decider against Manchester United on Tuesday, and defending title holders Bayern Munich.
In France, where admittedly few of the World Cup holders' internationals play their club football, leaders RC Lens and Olympique Lyon meet in a decider with only one point separating them.
Girondins Bordeaux's Portuguese striker Pedro Pauleta was voted French first division player of the season by his colleagues on Sunday and said the honour was a great morale-booster ahead of the World Cup.
"All I can say is that I'm improving every day. I learnt a lot from playing in France and French soccer has brought me a lot," he said.
"This award means a lot to me and is of course very important before going to the World Cup."
The Spanish race, in which Valencia have opened a four-point lead over Real Madrid, still has two games to go.
But Real, close to their ninth European Cup final, will not be easing up as they make sure they win at least one trophy in their centenary year.
The situation is similar in England where Arsenal, who meet Chelsea in Saturday's FA Cup final, are in the driving seat but cannot envisage Manchester United letting their premier league title go without a fight in a potential decider next week.
In Argentina, where the championship has three rounds to go, the clubs will be without their World Cup players for the last two rounds.
Even if the majority of Argentina's World Cup squad are based in Europe, leaders River Plate will be looking to squeeze every drop of energy from Ariel Ortega, if he recovers from a thigh injury, and Claudio Husain this weekend as they seek a title that has eluded them since mid 2000.
The tension of the recent kidnapping of his brother and the likely failure of securing a place in Argentina's World Cup squad got to Boca Juniors playmaker Juan Roman Riquelme.
Riquelme was sent off for retaliation in Boca's 1-0 defeat at Banfield as his side's titles chances faded.
While the rest of the world is otherwise engaged, co-hosts Japan are getting in as much preparation as possible ahead of the tournament as they bid to progress from the first round of the World Cup for the first time.
Japan played and won yet another warm-up match, beating Slovakia 1-0 in the Kirin Cup on Monday to extend their unbeaten run to six matches.