Liga MX Talking Point: Which teams will miss out on the Liguilla?
We're just two weeks away from the end of the Liga MX regular season and the playoff picture is almost complete. Though we've recently tried to predict the eight teams that make the Liguilla, we're going back to picking the lucky sides a second time as the race heats up.
Liguilla predictions: Monterrey, Tigres, Morelia, Leon, America, Necaxa, Toluca, Atlas
Unless something really bizarre occurs (and that shouldn't be entirely ruled out) there are three teams, Toluca, Atlas and Cruz Azul, fighting for the last two playoff spots.
Toluca travels to Veracruz this weekend and then finishes the 2017 Apertura regular season with Tijuana at home. With Los Diablos Rojos two points ahead of Atlas and Cruz Azul, you really couldn't ask for a friendlier way to conclude the regular season and you'd expect Toluca to get four points and qualify for the postseason.
Atlas -- currently in eighth and level on 21 points with a better goal difference than Cruz Azul -- still have Chivas away on Saturday in the Clasico Tapatio and Pachuca at home. It's a tough run-in for Los Rojinegros but they did put in a fighting performance with a player down for 70 minutes against Tigres on Wednesday to draw 1-1. You'd fancy Atlas to win one of their last two.
And that leaves Cruz Azul. Who knows what to expect from La Maquina? Morelia on the road and Veracruz at home are winnable but Cruz Azul has lost its last two games and hasn't shown much in the way of gumption of late to suggest it can get over the line.
It's going to be tight, but it's difficult to back Cruz Azul at present.
Liguilla predictions: Monterrey, Tigres, Leon, Morelia, America, Necaxa, Toluca, Pachuca
It hasn't been a pleasant season for Pachuca, as the excitement surrounding the club at the start of the season soon gave way to doom and gloom. Early defeats to Chivas and America at home left the club in limbo but if it manages to win its last two league matches, there's still minimal hope of seeing Diego Alonso's team in the playoffs. And if it reaches the Liguilla, it might meet Monterrey in the quarterfinals in what will be a repeat of the 2016 Clausura final.
But Los Tuzos depend on other teams' results, specifically on what Atlas does in the Clasico Tapatio, Cruz Azul in its visit to Morelia and Xolos' last two games, which will be against Leon and Toluca.
The key game for Pachuca will come in the last week when it visits Atlas, that match could ultimately turn into the game that will define Pachuca's Liguilla fate, of course if Atlas and Cruz Azul win their Week 16 matches, Pachuca's playoff hopes will diminish substantially. Seeing Pachuca in the last eight will be a miracle, but if it does happen, it will be something that Liga MX has seen before: teams not understanding how everything worked in their favor to reach the playoffs.
Liguilla predictions: Monterrey, Tigres, America, Morelia, Leon, Necaxa, Toluca, Cruz Azul
Both Monterrey teams sit atop the Liga MX table with two weeks to go (Los Rayados still have a game against Santos Laguna pending). It's no coincidence most have them pegged to win the league. Despite their drop-off, America is still in line to grab a top-three spot. Morelia, the league's biggest surprise, have gone from relegation candidate to a comfortable playoff team. There should be little fluctuation at the bottom. Leon has been quite strong of late, as the managerial switch midseason has given them a noticeable switch in play. Aside from Necaxa and Toluca, who are already close to locking in their postseason spots, Atlas sits in eighth at the moment. However, Cruz Azul still look stronger and are in position to take the final Liguilla place ahead of Los Rojinegros.
Below them, Pachuca, Tijuana and Lobos BUAP still have a smallish chance of pushing ahead -- though their performance of late has been middling at best. That's why I envision only one team (Atlas) losing their spot in the current group with two weeks to go.