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 By Eric Gomez

Liga MX Power Rankings: Playoffs set as Toluca tops table, power rankings

Toluca took it easy in a weekend defeat at Tijuana but remain the best team heading into the playoffs.

MEXICO CITY -- Eight teams are now officially ready to do battle for the chance to lift the Liga MX championship trophy next May.

This season's title will be hotly contested. Beyond Toluca, who dominated the league with 11 wins and 36 points, the rest of the seeds are in close proximity. The distance between second-place Club America and eighth place Morelia is just five points.

As we gear up for the final stage of the tournament, here are the final power rankings of the Clausura 2018 regular season.

1. TOLUCA (no change)
The league leaders trotted out half their bench in an effort to preserve their starters for the playoffs, including national team goalkeeper Alfredo Talavera. With nothing at stake in Tijuana, a 1-0 loss is no reason to be alarmed.

2. MONTERREY (no change)
Though Monterrey was unable to take advantage of 10-man Tigres in the second half, Antonio Mohamed's team was impressive late this season. Monterrey has emerged as a viable candidate to win the title in the Clausura 2018.

A hard-fought win against Santos Laguna meant the Mexico City giants vaulted up to second place in the league standings. The bad news? They'll face rivals UNAM Pumas in the quarterfinals in what's sure to be a tough matchup.

Tigres showed moxie against Monterrey, coming back from a deficit twice in the most recent iteration of the Clasico Regio. Furthermore, they held on to a 2-2 draw in the second half despite being a man down.

Santos was unable to take advantage of the opportunity to join Toluca as the only two teams with more than 30 points this season. The 1-0 loss against Club America was only a letdown for that particular aspiration, but it also means they'll face Tigres -- a very tough opponent -- in the quarterfinals.

6. PUMAS UNAM (no change)
Seemingly out of playoff contention a few weeks ago, Pumas roared back into contention and ended the season with 24 points and a playoff berth. The quarterfinals will now see them face familiar rivals Club America in a chance to keep their Cinderella run going.

Xolos squeaked out a 1-0 win against a Toluca team rife with bench players. Though Tijuana rolls into the playoffs with the league's best defense, they're still be considered massive underdogs against Monterrey in the quarterfinals.

8. MORELIA (-1)
A 2-2 draw against Necaxa left the fate of Morelia's playoff hopes in the air on Friday night. However, Pachuca was unable to take advantage of a favorable scenario and allowed Morelia to squeak through. The Monarcas will face Toluca in what could be a very entertaining series.

9. NECAXA (no change)
The Copa MX champions were unable to translate their success to the league, with the 2-2 draw against Morelia meaning they end the season on the outside looking in. With 10 draws this season, Ignacio Ambriz's team will need to work on getting over the hump next time.

10. PACHUCA (no change)
On Saturday, Pachuca needed to beat one of the worst teams in the league in order to cement their postseason status. However, an early red card from Angelo Sagal hampered the team's chances. The end result was a 0-0 draw that means Keisuke Honda will likely exit Liga MX without a chance at a title.

Pachuca's failure to reach the playoffs could spell the end for Keisuke Honda in Liga MX.

11. CRUZ AZUL (no change)
Pedro Caixinha can be hopeful for some carryover between the latter part of this season and Cruz Azul's hopes for the upcoming Apertura 2018. In their first 10 games this season, Cruz Azul won just once. In their last seven, the eight-time league champions notched four wins and lost just once.

12. PUEBLA  (no change)
The bottom fell out of Puebla's season in the latter stage of the tournament, turning a potential top-four team into another disappointing footnote amid the team's long history of failure. The good news? There are some special players on the team's roster: if they can keep it together, success is sure to come in the short-term.

13. LEON (no change)
Leon's defense allowed 33 goals this season, worst in all of Liga MX. Though they mostly kept up on the offensive side, the seven losses were too much to overcome. Ironically, Leon was able to keep its defense intact this week in a 2-0 win over Chivas.

14. ATLAS (+1)
After a horrid start to the season, Atlas was able to pull together under its third coach this season, Gerardo Espinoza. In the club's last seven games, Espinoza led the Guadalajara club to a record of four wins, two draws and just one loss.

15. QUERETARO  (-1)
And so a drab, disappointing season from Queretaro comes to a close. The roster is aging and manager Luis Fernando Tena doesn't look to be a long-term solution for the team. A rebuild beckons.

16. VERACRUZ (no change)
The 2017-18 season was all about avoiding relegation. Despite massive odds against them, the Tiburones Rojos were able to stave off dropping to the Ascenso MX. With no relegation for the next two years, now's a good time to patiently plan for the future.

17. CHIVAS (no change)
The CONCACAF Champions League winners shut off any hopes of qualifying in the league long ago. With just 15 points, Guadalajara has put together its worst Liga MX season since the Apertura 2013, when they finished with 12 points.

18. LOBOS BUAP (no change)
Unfortunately, one of the most thrilling stories for Mexican soccer in recent years has come to a swift and disappointing end. Can Lobos BUAP fight for promotion in 2019?

Eric Gomez is an editor for ESPN's One Nación. You can follow him on Twitter: @EricGomez86.


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