Liga MX final weekend sees five teams battling for three playoff spots
Only one weekend separates a handful of Liga MX clubs from a potential spot in the playoffs, also known as the Liguilla.
At the moment, the top five clubs have already claimed an invitation to the next round: Cruz Azul, Club America, Pumas, Santos and Monterrey. With only three places left in the remaining playoff-worthy spots in the top eight, five teams are still in the running: Tigres, Toluca, Morelia, Pachuca and Queretaro.
For those who are trying to keep track of the madness in the final stage of the 2018 Apertura regular season, and what each result means, here is a game-by-game guide to follow.
Morelia (8th place) vs. Cruz Azul (1st place)
Week 17 will kick-off with a fascinating battle between two teams in the top eight. While Cruz Azul will have a chance to solidify a No. 1 playoff seed with a win or draw, Morelia will be eager to avoid a potential drop outside of the playoff zone. Pachuca and Queretaro, who are both only two points behind Morelia, still have a chance to sneak into that final spot. If Morelia fails to garner a victory, things might become complicated for the side that is on the fringes.
Puebla (12th place) vs. Club Tijuana (15th place)
With all due respect to both clubs, this will be the only game that you might want to forget during Week 17. There's no chance of either side qualifying for the playoffs, no matter the result. Unless if you happen to be a fan of Puebla or Club Tijuana, or if you have some free time on Friday night after Morelia vs. Cruz Azul, there's no need to be excited about this one.
Queretaro (10th place) vs. Necaxa (16th place)
The good news for Queretaro? Los Gallos Blancos are about to face the worst away team in the league. In Necaxa's seven away games this season, Los Rayos have collected zero wins, one draw and six losses. The bad news for Queretaro? A win might not be enough to qualify for the playoffs. 6th-placed Tigres and 7th-placed Toluca appear out of reach due to their high goal differential, and a win for 8th-placed Morelia on Friday would nearly end the Liguilla hopes. Even if Morelia loses on Friday and Queretaro secure a win against Necaxa, Queretaro fans will still have to keep an eye on 9th-placed Pachuca.
Pachuca (9th place) vs. Leon (13th place)
Boosted by a thrilling rise in form from midfielder Victor Guzman, Pachuca is now back in the playoff conversation after sitting at the bottom of the table in the first few weeks. With a two-point drop behind 8th-place Morelia, Los Tuzos will at least need a win against Leon to remain in the running for the Liguilla. All that said, a current plus-8 goal differential will be decisive for the team that is battling with Queretaro, Morelia, Toluca and Tigres for the three final spots.
Club America (2nd place) vs. Veracruz (18th place)
Following the disaster regarding the state of the Estadio Azteca pitch, Club America will now host Veracruz in Toluca's Estadio Nemesio Diez. Despite the change of venue, Las Aguilas should have no problems gaining a victory over the last-placed team in the league. A win, depending on Cruz Azul's result on Friday, could secure a No. 1 playoff seed for Club America.
Chivas (11th place) vs. Tigres (6th place)
Tigres missing out on the playoffs would be nothing short of a massive failure for the club. With several of the league's most talented players -- including leading goal scorer Andre-Pierre Gignac -- in manager Ricardo "Tuca" Ferretti's roster, the northern Mexican squad will not only be expected to secure a spot in the top eight, but also emerge as a title-contender. At least a draw against an inconsistent Chivas side would be enough to guarantee a playoff spot. However, an unexpected loss for Tigres would leave things up in the air.
Monterrey (5th place) vs. Atlas (17th place)
An invitation to the Liguilla has already been sent to Monterrey. Although Los Rayados could still move up the league table, it wouldn't be much of a surprise if manager Diego Alonso fielded backups against an unintimidating Atlas squad. Depending on how the weekend plays out, we might be able to see Tigres and Monterrey finishing in 4th and 5th place, therefore setting up a Clasico Regio series for the first round of the playoffs.
Pumas (3rd place) vs. Santos Laguna (4th place)
If you're looking for a playoff preview, Sunday's clash will be a perfect appetizer before the Liguilla. Despite the fact that both sides have a place guaranteed in the top eight, an enticing spot in 2nd place is still up for grabs for the two squads who have been dominant for most of the season. Also be sure to keep an eye on Santos Laguna striker Julio Furch. Depending on how Gignac fares on Saturday of Tigres, Furch might have a chance to leapfrog him in the Liga MX goalscoring race.
Lobos BUAP (14th place) vs. Toluca (7th place)
During any other weekend, this game would justifiably be overlooked. Lobos BUAP's home attendance is typically the lowest in the league and Toluca has appeared as a fairly average away team in the Apertura tournament. Sunday's match, which is the last in the final weekend of the regular season, will be different. Going through the potential permutations and combinations of what the result would mean for the league table, is an article of its own. Nonetheless, regardless of what happens in the eight previous Week 17 games, this match might make or break the season for any of the five teams currently in playoff limbo.