Tigres, Pachuca and Chivas battling for favorable seeding in season finales

Victory could be difference between first-round bye or participation in Liga MX Play-In Tournament
Guadalalajara and Tigres know that if they lose their respective season finales they could wind up participating in the Liga MX Play-In Tournament. The Chivas visit Atlas in a "Clásico Tapatío" while Tigres host Tijuana.
Guadalalajara and Tigres know that if they lose their respective season finales they could wind up participating in the Liga MX Play-In Tournament. The Chivas visit Atlas in a "Clásico Tapatío" while Tigres host Tijuana. / Simon Barber/GettyImages

Saturday’s Liga MX calendar features five game and all five have playoff implications.

The first match of the “quintuple-header” will determine the final participant in the Play-In Tournament with León looking to pip Querétaro to the No. 10 seed, with the reward being a visit to the No. 9 seed (likely to be Necaxa) next week.

The Esmeraldas will have to defeat FC Juárez up at the border in order to get an invitation to the Play-In round for the second season in a row. As the No. 8 seed last season, “La Fiera” lost at 7th-seeded Atlético de San Luis before earning a spot in the quarterfinals by defeating No. 9 Santos Laguna.

For its part, FC Juárez needs a draw to avoid falling to last place in the “Relegation Standings,” a position that brings with it an 80 million-peso fine. A draw or a win could actually lift the Bravos into 16th place in the “Relegation Standings,” which would result in a much less burdensome 33 million-peso penalty.

Jostling for playoff seeding

Saturday’s other four matches see three playoff qualifiers – Tigres, Pachuca and Guadalajara – squaring off against also-rans knowing that a stumble could send two of them into the Play-In Tournament.

All three of these clubs have 28 points while Necaxa, with 27, could leap-frog any losers among the trio, so there is considerable incentive to win.

Tigres hosts 15th-place Tijuana, Pachuca welcomes 14th-place Mazatlán FC to Hidalgo and Guadalajara pays a visit to cross-town rivals Atlas.

Tigres should have no problem with the Xolos. “Los felinos” are coming off an impressive 5-2 home win over Necaxa and they would benefit from a first-round bye. 

A Tigres win would likely assure a Top 6 seed (and next weekend off) because of the team’s +8 goal differential. A draw or loss risks a date with UNAM next week in the 7 vs 8 Play-In game.

Pachuca would normally be expected to punish Mazatlán FC but the Tuzos are in the middle of a Concacaf Champions Cup semifinal against América. Pachuca played the Aguilas to a 1-1 draw on Wednesday and the return match is at home on May 1.

Coach Guillermos Almada would like nothing more than to rotate his line-up and rest key players ahead of the second-lag clash against América, but he also knows anything less than a win and the Tuzos might be playing again next weekend.

On paper, the Chivas would appear to be favorites over 16th-place Atlas, but you can throw out the records when a “Clásico Tapatío” kicks off. And the Zorros would love nothing better than to throw a monkey wrench into Guadalajara’s playoff plans.

The Chivas (+6) trail Tigres (+8) and Pachuca (+7) on goal differential, so they understand they must not only win but also do so convincingly if they hope to earn a first-round bye.

Battle at the top of the Liga MX table

The fifth contest tonight has 3d-place Cruz Azul (30 points) visiting 4th-place Toluca (32 points) with the hosts in a position to steal the No. 1 seed from América.

Toluca can sneak past the defending Liga MX champs by defeating the Cementeros by two goals or more. And as the Diablos Rojos are the highest-scoring team in Liga MX (38 goals scored), they have the firepower to do so.

“La Máquina Azul” boasts the second-best defense in Liga MX (14 goals allowed) and Martín Anselmi’s men know that a win would earn them the No. 2 seed. A loss or a draw could see Cruz Azul plummet as low as 7th!

That’s right. If the Cementeros lose or tie tonight and Monterrey, Tigres, Pachuca and Guadalajara win, Cruz Azul would be relegated to the Play-In Tournament.

Ref, VAR boost Liga MX champs 

América’s 2-1 win at last-place Puebla on Friday night was no surprise, especially considering the helping hand the Aguilas got from game officials.

Down 1-0, América winger Javairo Dilrosen dribbled toward the box into a crowd whereupon he was tripped up. As the Dutchman fell to the ground, his right hand clearly nudged the ball in the direction of Salvador Reyes who thumped the ball into the net.

The violation was clear, and Puebla players were screaming in protest, but neither ref Guillermo Pacheco nor the VAR elected to consider it.

In Friday’s other match, UNAM battled Querétaro to a 1-1 draw. The result secured the visiting Pumas a spot in the Play-In Tournament, but the Gallos Blancos must await the result of the León-FC Juárez match.

Querétaro (24 points) will be hoping that León (23 points) either loses or manages only a draw as an Esmeraldas victory would boost them past the Gallos for the final postseason slot.