Sunday’s slate of three Liga MX games involves five teams scrambling to stay in the playoff hunt as well as holders Pachuca who are battling for a Top 4 seed and a first-round bye.
The day kicks off with a high-noon showdown between 12th-place Atlético de San Luis and 17th-place UNAM. Yep … even the team in the penultimate slot of the Liga MX table is alive for a wildcard spot.
The visiting Tuneros (15 points) have shown some signs of life of late, winning two of their past three, just enough to save coach André Jardine’s job. But a loss against the stumbling Pumas (11 points) could be a job-killer. That’s easier said than done, however, as San Luis is the lowest-scoring team in Liga MX (12 goals).
UNAM comes into the game having lost seven of eight and that explains why Antonio Mohamed will be making his debut as Pumas coach. “El Turco” was hired last week to salvage the club’s season though his focus admittedly is to start a rebuild that will allow the once-proud franchise to be a genuine title-contender by 2024.
Liga MX champs go to war against Guerreros
Pachuca visits Santos Laguna trying to rediscover the form that carried the Tuzos to their 7th Liga MX title last season.
Guillermo Almada’s men have already lost more games this season (5) than they did the entire Apertura 2022, including the playoffs (4).
Their once-stingy defense has struggled and their offense, though productive, has not been as sharp and as lethal as it was last season.
Even so, the fifth-place Tuzos (22 points) are just 2 points out of a Top 4 spot and a first-round bye in the playoffs. They no doubt have noticed that no other Liga MX team has given up more goals at home than Santos Laguna.
This is a critical game for Santos who are in 11th place (16 points). They’ve fallen down to 11th and could be in 12th place by kickoff time at the Estadio Corona if Atlético de San Luis defeats UNAM at the CU earlier Sunday.
The Guerreros pounded Pachuca the last time the two clubs met at the Estadio Corona (3-1) but they have been wildly inconsistent this season (partly due to injuries) and have gone 2-4-4 in their past eight.
Santos will have to tighten up the back end and do a better job of protecting goalie Carlos Acevedo who has been under siege most of the season as evidenced by the goals against column – 27 (third-worst in Liga MX).
On the outside looking in
Atlas and FC Juárez bring down the curtain on Matchday 14 and the loser of this match can probably kiss their playoff hopes good-bye. To be frank, a tie doesn’t do much to help either team.
The two clubs are even on points (13) but Atlas (13th place) benefits from a better goal differential (0) than the 15th-place Bravos (–5).
The visiting Zorros arrive off a midweek Concacaf Champions League match in Philadelphia (a 1-0 loss) and will be looking ahead to the rematch at home in Guadalajara on Wednesday.
A lack of focus on the part of Atlas could benefit FC Juárez who will be working under an interim coach – Diego Mejía – the rest of the season after Hernán Cristante was given his walking papers.
The Bravos have not won since Matchday 6, going 0-4-3 and scoring just 3 goals, so Mejía has his work cut out for him.
A win for Atlas could give the Zorros the momentum they need to overturn their deficit against the Philadelphia Union in the CCL and that eventuality, in turn, could send them back into the playoffs after missing out a season ago.
As for FC Juárez, it might be too late to turn things around but if they are to make a go of it, the Bravos must begin on Sunday and then win next week at Atlético de San Luis since their final two games are against Toluca and América.