Goal's Tom Marshall examines the storylines awaiting fans in this weekend's Liga MX action after two of its sides progressed to the CCL final.
The two teams have been the dominating forces in the Liga MX’s Clausura 2014 and are floating high above the riff-raff, having already qualified for the postseason with three rounds of games to go.
Below them, the battle is intensifying, with 14 teams still in with realistic shots of making the Liguilla and only five points separating third-place Pumas from Monterrey in 16th.
Here are some of the main stories heading into this weekend’s crucial games:
Tijuana and Tigres will face off on Saturday in the Estadio Universitario after very different midweek experiences. Xolos fell to a 2-0 loss Wednesday in Mexico City against Cruz Azul to crash out of the CCL at the semifinal stage in an often ill-tempered game, while Tigres overcame Alebrijes de Oaxaca 3-0 in the Copa MX final to spark a party in Monterrey that lasted long into the night.
Tigres (on 17 points – three points off the playoffs) need a win just to keep up their bid to reach the offseason, while Tijuana is hoping to end a run of winless games on the road that stretches back to January 2013. Tijuana’s away form has already cost it in the CCL and the same will be the case in the Liga MX if it isn’t nipped in the bud.
The clash on Saturday could very well be the defining game for both this Clausura.
La Fiera produced a memorable display under pressure to send Brazilian giant Flamengo crashing out of the Copa Libertadores on Wednesday.
The 3-2 win reaffirmed Leon’s reputation as the most exciting team in the Liga MX and now coach Gustavo Matosas has secured his passage to the most prestigious continental club competition this side of the Atlantic, it’ll be interesting to see how he treats the final three rounds of the league.
So far, Matosas has said both competitions are of equal importance, but has rested key players in the league.
Now with Leon desperate for win against Toluca on Sunday to keep playoff aspirations alive and a break in the Copa Libertadores, will Matosas risk the likes of Carlos Pena, Rafa Marquez and Luis Montes, or, in fact, it is now all about the Libertadores?
Barring the shenanigans of last year when a game of club musical chairs ensued after Queretaro was relegated and then bought its way back into the Liga MX, Atlante looks set to be in Mexico’s second division next season.
That is unless Los Potros wins their last three games, starting against Santos Laguna in Torreon on Sunday.
There is a six-point difference between Atlante and Puebla at present, with La Franja also in action on Sunday, at home to Club America.
Which America will show up?
For all the talk of mediocrity at America, its 2-1 loss against Cruz Azul last weekend and failures to beat Veracruz and Chiapas in recent weeks, Las Aguilas are still in fifth place in the Liga MX.
In amongst those shoddy displays, the team purred in its 4-0 win over archrival Chivas and the lingering feeling is that when the pressure is on America will perform.
In a very winnable game against a misfiring Puebla on Sunday, we’ll find out just how committed America’s horde of national team players are to Antonio Mohamed and extending its season ahead of the World Cup.
Is the La Volpe magic real at Chivas?
It is no secret that Ricardo La Volpe has struggled to find himself at a club since leading Mexico to a positive display in the 2006 World Cup.
So it was a surprise that when La Volpe replaced Jose Luis Real a little over one week ago the move was generally applauded by Chivas fans. Then after Chivas’ 3-1 win at Pachuca last weekend, fans in Guadalajara became even more enthusiastic about their team’s prospects under “El Bigoton.”
With key players like Jair Pereira, Jesus Sanchez and Jorge Enriquez definitely out and others like Carlos Fierro and Giovani Hernandez doubtful for Sunday’s match against Morelia in Guadalajara, just what La Volpe’s immediate impact has been will be clear to see.