As the main phase of the Clausura 2014 draws to an end this weekend there are still eleven sides competing for the five remaining places in the Liga MX playoffs.
The table is incredibly tight with only Cruz Azul, Toluca and Pumas having qualified, although Santos Laguna look a good bet to join them as they face bottom club Veracruz on Saturday.
Here are five key issues to be settled this weekend:
Can Cruz Azul recapture its winning ways?
Fresh from defeating Toluca on away goals in Wednesday’s CONCACAF Champions League final, Cruz Azul will finish as superlider if it can beat third-placed Pumas on Saturday. But La Maquina’s excellent early-season form has grown patchier in recent weeks and the side has won just two of its last nine games in all competitions. As the business end of the season approaches Luis Fernando Tena will be keen be to build on the momentum generated by the CONCACAF triumph and re-establish a winning mentality among his players. It has been sorely lacking since he led Cruz Azul to its last league title in 1997.
America has a point to make in Toluca
Club America only needs a point to secure qualification on Sunday, but it has a dire recent record at Toluca’s Nemesio Diez Stadium. The Aguilas have won just one of their last ten games in the Bombonera and even that 2-1 victory was not enough to prevent America from losing 3-2 on aggregate in the Apertura 2012 semifinal. America fans may still be haunted by the humiliating 6-0 defeat at Toluca in 2003, but at least Coach Antonio Mohamed has fond memories of the ground, having won the Apertura 2012 final there with Tijuana. If America can secure a rare victory then a third-place finish is the best it can hope for, although even that is dependent on the results of Pumas, Santos and Tijuana.
Can La Volpe pull off Chivas’ mission impossible?
Since taking the reins at the desperately out-of-form Guadalajara club on April 2, Ricardo La Volpe has injected his players with some much needed confidence but has yet to see a significant improvement in terms of results. Chivas will need to beat a resurgent Monterrey to stand any chance of making the playoffs, but their destiny is out of their hands as their goal difference of minus four leaves them the lowest placed of five teams all on 21 points. Despite having Chilean talisman Humberto Suazo back to full fitness, Monterrey has an even slimmer chance of qualification – one that will probably have been extinguished altogether by the time the game kicks off late Sunday afternoon.
Atlas could still sneak into la Liguilla
Last week’s surprise victory over Toluca has given Club Atlas hope where there was none. Now a dark horse to creep into the playoffs, Atlas has a winnable last game against Tigres, who have endured a disappointing season and now have nothing left to play for. If Atlas wins and Tijuana loses or either of Morelia or Pachuca drop points then the Rojinegros will enter the playoffs. If none of the three teams above Atlas drop points then the Guadalajara side will need to win by two goals more than Pachuca does.
Pachuca must reverse recent decline
Barring a big win for Atlas, any victory for Pachuca on Friday night should be enough to see the Tuzos into the playoffs. However, Pachuca is at serious risk of missing out, having taken just one point from its last four games. Its opponent Queretaro has the advantage of playing at home and has won three and lost none of its last five. To secure a berth in la Liguilla Queretaro must win and hope that either Morelia or Atlas drops points. Even then the Gallos Blancos could still be leapfrogged if Chivas record a big enough win over Monterrey.