Final Liga MX Power Rankings: Apertura 2021

América edged the visiting Tigres 1-0 back on Oct. 23 in a game that could have been a Liga MX finals preview. (Photo by Hector Vivas/Getty Images)
América edged the visiting Tigres 1-0 back on Oct. 23 in a game that could have been a Liga MX finals preview. (Photo by Hector Vivas/Getty Images) /
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Liga MX final rankings
With Carlos Acevedo back between the pipes, Santos Laguna looks to get back to the Liga MX Final this season. (Photo by Manuel Guadarrama/Getty Images) /

These wildcard teams are genuine contenders

5. Santos (+5)

After a lackluster Matchday 13 loss at América, the Guerreros appeared to be in trouble. You could see the steam coming out of the ears of ever-demanding coach Guillermo Almada. But then something clicked and “Los Laguneros” exploded, scoring 8 goals in their next three games to clinch a playoff spot. With acrobatic goalie Carlos Acevedo back between the pipes (he returned on Matchday 16 after missing eight games with a shoulder injury), Santos is a threat to return to the Liga MX Finals.

6. Toluca (–2)

The Diablos Rojos collapsed down the stretch, finishing the season with an 0-4-4 fade. Top striker Alexis Canelo was a shadow of the player that led Liga MX in scoring last season; his production dipped from 11 goals to 4. The loss of defender Miguel Barbieri to season-ending knee surgery in early September left a hole that was never adequately filled and then goalie Luis García went down with an unspecified leg injury on Oct. 17. This team is ripe for an upset when No. 11 UNAM comes to “La Bombonera” on Nov. 21.

7. Puebla (+2)

The Camoteros were winless after six games, but lost only twice since, posting an impressive 6-3-2 record. Coach Nicolás Larcamón took some time to figure out his roster after the front office sold three key players (Santi Ormeño, Omar Fernández and Salvador Reyes) from the team he guided to the semifinals last season. Shortly after youngster Guillermo Martínez won the spot as Christián Tabó’s strike partner, “La Franja” took off.

8. Cruz Azul (–3)

The reigning Liga MX champs rather sleepwalked through the Apertura 2021, occasionally flashing the dynamic style that helped them claim the franchise’s ninth league title. “La Máquina” just seemed to lack the hunger and determination that carried them to the top, and coach Juan Reynoso was furious with some lackadaisical effort in Sunday’s stunning loss to the Pumas that left them with a No. 8 seed.

9. Monterrey (–2)

The Rayados were the biggest underachievers of the season. Despite boasting the biggest payroll in Liga MX, Monterrey languished in the middle of the table most of the season. The front office was typing up a pink slip for coach Javier Aguirre until the club defeated América to win the Concacaf Champions League on Oct. 28. That piece of hardware does not erase the fact that this collection of millionaires has not won a Liga MX match since Sept. 26, going 0-2-4. And three of those four losses were to FC Juárez, Querétaro and Necaxa. A quick exit in the playoffs and “El Vasco” could be looking for a new job.