Liga MX W2W4: Atlas could clinch playoff spot at archrival Chivas
Ahead of this weekend's action, ESPN FC's Liga MX writers Tom Marshall, Nayib Moran and Eric Gomez look ahead to some of the league's biggest matchups and storylines.
Chivas vs. Atlas
It has to be Chivas against Atlas and not just because I'm based in Guadalajara!
This is an absolutely crucial game for the playoffs, with Chivas virtually out of the picture while a win for Atlas would basically secure them a spot in the postseason. You can't imagine trophy-starved Atlas, who won their only Liga MX title in 1951, would rather do it anywhere else than in the home of its Guadalajara neighbor and archrival, Chivas.
Atlas showed guts and courage in obtaining a point in Wednesday's 1-1 tie against Tigres in Estadio Jalisco but it came at a cost, with goalkeeper Oscar Ustari suffering a horrific knee injury and English midfielder Ravel Morrison getting sent off. Both will miss Saturday's game.
For Chivas, there have been plenty of memes and jokes from rival fans about this being the week of "Day of the Dead" in Mexico and the reigning champion falling out of the Copa MX on Tuesday against second division Atlante.
Even with Chivas out of the reckoning in Liga MX, Argentine coach Matias Almeyda will be desperate for a victory. He even apologized to owner Jorge Vergara and Chivas fans after the cup exit. Winning against Atlas and disrupting their potential playoff place would at least divert the attention from Chivas' woes. A loss, however, and there would be a fresh wave of criticism and negativity. - Tom Marshall (@mexicoworldcup)
Pachuca vs. Queretaro
If Pachuca doesn't win its last two games, the club has no chance of reaching the Liguilla. Last weekend against Santos Laguna, Pachuca led 2-0, but it couldn't protect its two-goal lead, and the game ended in a 2-2 draw. Also in the last week, Keisuke Honda completed his best week since arriving to Mexico. He scored twice in the Copa MX Round of Sixteen match against Zacatepec and scored one of the two goals against Santos.
In Pachuca's last five games, three of which took place at Estadio Hidalgo, Diego Alonso's team has only managed one win, three draws and one loss. Teams like America and Chivas have taken the full three points from their visit to Pachuca, while others like Necaxa and Toluca have grabbed a point.
Pachuca's home field advantage hasn't been adequately used throughout the Apertura, which ultimately can be to blame for the club missing the playoffs, and if that happens, the club is bound to arrive to the upcoming Club World Cup (which starts on December 9th) with a significant amount of time off.
In order for Pachuca to reach the Liguilla, they will need to rely on other teams' results, and as they await Queretaro's visit, there's uncertainty as to what type of team they'll face. Since Luis Fernando Tena took over as Queretaro's manager, the team at least is showing more organization in the back, and more fighting spirit, both attributes that were missing a couple of weeks ago.
It won't be easy for Los Tuzos to get wins over Queretaro and Atlas, but they have the offensive weapons to do so. If Atlas, Cruz Azul and Tijuana don't get three points this week and Pachuca does, Week 17 will be extremely exciting in Liga MX. - Nayib Moran (@nayibmoran)
Morelia vs. Cruz Azul
Suddenly, the Friday night tilt between Morelia and Cruz Azul takes on a bigger meaning as both jostle for playoff spots. Morelia has seen an impressive turnaround under Roberto Hernandez and currently sit third in the league. Meanwhile, La Maquina is suddenly on the outside looking in on the playoff picture, though a win over the Monarcas could push them back into a playoff position very quickly, assuming Atlas doesn't win as well.
With just two games left, Cruz Azul is running out of time to save their season (having already lost out in the Copa MX), with the added uncertainty of not knowing whether their current manager Paco Jemez will stay on through the winter. After losing just once between April and September this year, the Mexico City side has lost four of its last six in Liga MX, and five of seven overall.
Should Morelia win at home, Cruz Azul's chances of making the playoffs ware nearly completely dashed, all the while fortifying Morelia's standing as a dark horse for this season's championship. - Eric Gomez (@EricGomez86)