With six teams already holding postseason invitations, the Liga MX playoff race promises to be a lot clearer after this weekend.
We’re already three games into Matchday 15 (Atlético de San Luis 2, FC Juárez 0; Necaxa 1, Puebla 1; Mazatlán FC 1, Tijuana 2), but several tantalizing games remain on the calendar, starting with Saturday’s Pachuca at Atlas contest that features the past three Liga MX champions and a rematch of the Clausura 2022 Finals.
The visiting Tuzos (25 points) are playoff-bound and fighting for a Top 4 seed (and the first-round bye that goes with it), while the Zorros (14 points) are on the outside looking in.
Sitting 14th on the Liga MX table, Atlas is a miserable 1-4-3 at Estadio Jalisco and really can’t afford to drop more points at home. Unfortunately, Pachuca boasts a league-leading 5 road wins.
One more Saturday night …
Today’s schedule only gets better.
In the nightcap, América and Cruz Azul will go to battle at Estadio Azteca in the 188th rendition of “El Clásico Joven.” The Aguilas arrive with the best offense in Liga MX (31 goals in 14 games) while Cruz Azul is still licking its wounds from the 7-0 horse-whipping suffered at the hands of “los Azulcremas” last season.
Third-place América (27 points) is in the thick of the race for a first-round bye, while the Cementeros (21 points) can punch their postseason ticket with a win. (For more on this game, click here).
Sandwiched between the “Junior Classic” and the CL22 Finals rematch is the very attractive León-Guadalajara contest.
The Esmeraldas are on a 10-game unbeaten run (6-4-0) that has springboard them into 4th place (26 points), just a couple spots above the visiting Chivas (25 points).
Both clubs have playoff invitations in hand and are very much in the running for a Top 4 seed though Guadalajara has an easier road remaining. As such, “La Fiera” will want to hold the fort at home (where they are 4-2-1), especially with Pachuca nipping at its heels.
The Chivas hope to continue their surprise revival (this was seen as a rebuilding year for “El Rebaño Sagrado”) which has slowed a bit of late, with Veljko Paunovic seeing his team claim just 4 of 12 points since its 7-game unbeaten streak ended on March 10.
‘El Turco’ issues warning to Liga MX rivals
New UNAM coach Antonio Mohamed is bullish on his Pumas, telling reporters this week that he believes “los felinos” can win out and claim a playoff spot.
“El Turco” debuted at the CU last week with a 3-1 win over Atlético de San Luis, boosting the Pumas into earshot of a wildcard berth. Mohamed (a three-time Liga MX champ) will have to make good his boast starting Sunday against last season’s losing finalist Toluca.
The Diablos Rojos (28 points) are ensconced in second place with an outside chance of claiming the No. 1 seed. But the only way “los Choriceros” can scramble past 1st-place Monterrey is by winning at least two of their three remaining games. There will be no let-up from Ignacio Ambriz’s men who have scored 15 goals in 8 road games.
For its part, Monterrey (34 points) needs just 3 points from its remaining three matches to secure the top seed. That quest begins Sunday night when Santos Laguna comes calling.
The Guerreros (16 points) are hanging on in 12th place though a loss to the Rayados could see their postseason dreams start to fade. Santos Laguna arrives with the worst defense in Liga MX (31 goals allowed) while Monterrey boasts the best goal differential (+17) in the league.
Sunday’s other match sees a desperate Querétaro side hosting a Tigres team that is coming off a 5-0 rout of Motagua (Honduras) in a Concacaf Champions League match.
Querétaro must win its three remaining games and hope Tijuana loses out if it hopes to claim a playoff spot. The Gallos Blancos are last in the Relegation Standings and league rules prohibit a team in the Relegation Zone cellar from participating in the playoffs.
Even if the above scenario plays out, Querétaro would also have to make up a 14-goal deficit in differential. That’s quite a bit to ask from a team with a league-low 14 goals.
As for Tigres, Robert Siboldi will make his Liga MX debut as Top Cat, hoping to continue the form on display Thursday night. Siboldi – a former Tigres goalie and Liga MX champ as manager of Santos Laguna (Clausura 2018) – has taken over for Marco Antonio Ruiz who was canned after Tigres lost at home to last-place Mazatlán FC last Saturday.