The Liga MX stretch run continues in earnest this weekend with the reigning champs and América hosting important matches and a huge “Clásico” taking place out west in “La Perla Tapatía.”
Matchday 13 kicked off Friday night with a scoreless draw in Aguascalientes that hurt more than helped Necaxa (13 points) and Santos Laguna (16 points).
Later Friday, Puebla extended FC Juárez’s miseries by stealing into the Estadio Olímpico Benito Júarez and emerging with 3 points thanks to a 2-0 victory that helped the Camoteros (16 points) leapfrog Santos Laguna into 9th place.
The Bravos (13 points) saw their winless streak reach seven games (0-4-3), causing the Juarenses to tumble into 12th place behind Necaxa on goal differential.
Liga MX champs host Cruz Azul, América awaits León visit
Holders Pachuca hope to end their streak of alternating results (L-W-L-W in their past four games) against the Cementeros Saturday afternoon.
The 5th-place Tuzos have struggled to find consistency yet their results have kept pace with last season when they claimed their seventh Liga MX title. Pachuca earned 32 points last season heading into the playoffs and Guillermo Almada’s men have 22 with five games remaining.
Even so, the champs have been unconvincing this season with several reliable stars (most notably right back Kevin Álvarez and winger Avilés Hurtado) playing below the standards they set the past two seasons.
Eighth-place Cruz Azul (17 points) arrives still searching for an identity after a mid-season coaching change. Ricardo Ferretti is tinkering with the line-up but has been unable to find the right mix up front as “La Máquina Azul” had scored exactly one goal in five straight games before Wednesday’s 2-2 draw against a woeful Querétaro team (Cruz Azul had to grab a late goal to escape with the tie against the Liga MX cellar-dwellers).
Still, the Cementeros have climbed back into playoff contention (4-1-1 in their past six contests), but have a difficult stretch run as their next four opponents – including Pachuca – are above them on the Liga MX table.
In Mexico City, 2nd-place León (24 points) will wage war against 3rd-place América (23 points) with both clubs vying for a first-round playoff bye.
The visiting Esmeraldas are riding an 8-game unbeaten streak (6-2-0) and their defense is among the very best in Liga MX (9 goals allowed).
The Aguilas boast the highest-scoring offense in Liga MX (27 goals scored) but “Los AzulCremas” have needed their goals to offset a leaky defense (16 goals allowed), a problem that prompted a goalie switch with Luis Malagón taking over from Oscar Jiménez a couple games ago.
This game promises to be a high-octane affair and León netminder Rodolfo Cota is likely to be tested early and often.
Atlas eager to maintain Jalisco bragging rights
The Zorros welcome the Chivas to Estadio Jalisco tonight for the 287th “Clásico Tapatío.” Atlas has held the upper hand in recent seasons, but only slightly.
The “Rojinegros” are unbeaten in the past five Jalisco derbies (2-3-0) and eliminated their bitter rivals in the quarterfinals en route to the Clausura 2022 title. However, the last time Atlas defeated Guadalajara at the Jalisco was back in 2018 and the Chivas have gone 3-2-0 in their former home stadium in that time.
The Chivas will be playing without top playmaker Víctor Guzmán who earned himself a red card by insulting ref Marco Antonio Ortiz AFTER the team’s last game. “El Pocho” was upset with the officiating during Guadalajara’s 4-2 loss against América and by losing his cool he’ll miss out on this important “Clásico.”
“El Rebaño Sagrado” enters the match in 7th place with 21 points and still has hopes of earning a first-round bye in the Liga MX playoffs, but they can’t afford any slip-ups. First-year coach Veljko Paunovic warned Atlas that the Chivas have learned from the mistakes that hurt them so badly in the “Super Clásico” but his team must do their talking on the pitch (they weren’t so quiet heading into the América match).
Early in this Liga MX season, Atlas (12 points) looked likely to miss out on the playoffs for a second straight season (just 10 months removed from winning a second consecutive Liga MX title), but a mini-resurgence has them on the cusp of a wildcard spot.
With a favorable calendar down the stretch (except for a Matchday 15 contest against Pachuca), Atlas could gain some momentum with a victory over their crosstown rivals.
In Saturday’s other contest, league-leading Monterrey (31 points) hosts Tijuana (12 points) with a slim chance of securing home-field advantage throughout the Liga MX playoffs. A Rayados victory combined with Pachuca and Chivas losses, plus a Toluca-Tigres draw on Sunday will do the trick. Regardless, los “regiomontanos” have the top seed virtually sewn up.