Liga MX W2W4: Santos-America pits high-powered offenses; playoff race heating up
The Liga MX playoffs are only two match days away. Though the international break will serve as a buffer as we gear up for the final weekend, there are plenty of stories to watch out for in Week 16:
1. Match of the week pits Santos vs. Club America
It's almost criminal that no one is paying attention to the amazing season Santos Laguna has put together. Heck, not only are they the defending champions and lost three key members of their side during the summer -- their coach resigned mid-season, too.
Yet here we are, with just two games remaining and a Santos side sitting just four points off the pace. A win over Club America at the Estadio Corona would put them in second place and potentially help them get a more favorable quarterfinal matchup in the playoffs.
To do so, they'll have to lock horns with the league's most potent offense. Sunday's game appears to be a potential barnburner in front of both goals, as Santos possesses two of the country's best goal scorers in Julio Furch and Jonathan Rodriguez. Furch leads Liga MX with 11 goals, while Rodriguez ranks fourth with eight strikes on the season.
On the other side, Club America has turned one of their starting spots on offense over to Henry Martin, the talented Mexican striker who unseated the equally talented but struggling Roger Martinez in the team's lineup.
2. Toluca and Pumas star in a potential playoff preview
Fans will get not one, but two matches between Top 5 teams this weekend as Toluca hosts Pumas on Sunday at the Nemesio Diez. Despite consistency and discipline issues for both of these teams this season, they currently sit in the top half of the table with 26 points each.
Despite a four-game winless streak, Pumas has been recovered its form in order to settle among the best teams in the league for the Apertura. Toluca's seen four red cards over the course of the season, including two to Rubens Sambueza, their most prominent player in the midfield. Toluca has won this matchup four consecutive times dating back to 2016, never once allowing Pumas to score more than one goal in those games.
Pumas has gone five years without pulling out a win in Toluca, giving the home team a slight advantage as they roll into this weekend's game. Special attention should be placed on each team's primary goal scoring threats: Toluca's Alexis Vega, with five this season, is a transfer candidate for Chivas next winter, while Felipe Mora of Pumas has shown to be one of the rare missteps in recent months for Cruz Azul, who sold him off after the Clausura 2018. Mora has scored seven times in the current campaign.
3. The playoff race tightens up
With 23 points on the season, Tigres sits in seventh place of the Liga MX table, but a loss to their next opponents, Puebla, could see their position compromised. Puebla's 19 points has them in twelfth place, a testament to how tight the final spots in the playoff race have become. A win for Enrique Meza's club would put them in prime position to compete for a postseason spot with just one game to go, while the same result for Tigres would likely mathematically confirm their qualification.
The three teams in the middle (Pachuca, Morelia and Queretaro) have equally winnable games against bottom half opponents this weekend. Pachuca faces Atlas in Guadalajara on Friday, while Monarcas visits Club Tijuana on Saturday.
Veracruz, the league's worst team this season, will host Queretaro on Friday night. Assuming all three playoff-eligible teams win, the scenario sees a clear advantage for two teams on Matchday 17: Pachuca hosts a disappointing Leon team at the Estadio Hidalgo, while Queretaro will have an accessible opponent in Necaxa visit them at the Estadio Corregidora.
Morelia will hope one of their rivals is knocked off this weekend, as they would have to face Cruz Azul, arguably the best team in Mexico right now, on the season's last weekend in order to try and obtain a liguilla spot. Meanwhile, Tigres will visit Chivas (another winnable game for Tuca Ferretti's team) while Puebla hosts Club Tijuana, a match that would favor the home team.
This weekend's results will be paramount in seeing whether the drama lasts for another two weeks -- or not.