After a busy week that saw Round 10 of Liga MX crammed into a three-day space just days after Round 13 and days before Round 14, the light at the end of the tunnel is near for the league's players and managers. This weekend will be fascinating, with some players fighting fatigue and managers rotating their teams to keep players fresh.
With no games Friday because of the crowded schedule and just two Easter matchups Sunday, Saturday night will be the meatiest day of the schedule by far. Let's take a look at the Saturday games generating conversation ahead of Round 14 of the Liga MX Clausura:
It's a big weekend for ... Lozano's Gallos Blancos
Queretaro has a daunting task ahead of it this weekend. Jaime "Jimmy" Lozano's Gallos Blancos surged up the table when he took over and implemented an attacking style that prioritized keeping possession. That new-coach smell has worn off, though, with Wednesday's 1-0 home loss to Club Tijuana the third consecutive defeat for Querataro. The Liguilla, which looked like a real possibility as the team launched back up the table after the coaching search, is slipping away.
A trip to face America at the Estadio Azteca is not what Lozano or any manager wants at the moment. Despite playing a back line made up of nearly all second-choice players for Ricardo La Volpe, America has kept a clean sheet in its last three matches as Las Aguilas enjoy a push up the table of their own. Worse yet for Lozano's side, America is yet to concede in a league match at home this year.
"The margin of error is smaller. Tough opponents are coming," Lozano said after the defeat to Tijuana. "We have to lift our heads, think about America and move forward.
Like Tijuana during the week, Queretaro may be able to find a few scoring chances against America but it will need to make the most of them. La Volpe's men are playing well with the defense understanding how to play as a unit and forwards Oribe Peralta and Silvio Romero working well together now that La Volpe is playing them together in a more familiar position.
The final three game of the season for Queretaro bring Chiapas, Toluca and Tigres. Not getting something out of Saturday's clash likely brings a close to the team's playoff ambitions. They can take a bit of hope from recent history, though. Queretaro is undefeated in its last seven league meetings with America.
Don't miss ... Tigres vs. Pumas
It's rare our Match of the Week doesn't have at least one team in the playoff positions. It's also rare that neither Tigres nor Pumas are in the top eight.
Tigres seems to be on the up, seeing off the Vancouver Whitecaps to get into the CONCACAF Champions League final and topping Chivas 3-0 during the week.
That win might not be as impressive as it seems at first glance, though, with Chivas using an untested back four that Andre-Pierre Gignac and Javier Aquino carved up without too much difficulty.
"Tigres has a really good squad, it's well-coached and Tigres always is a team that has a high chance of winning because of the quality they have," Pumas coach Paco Palencia said. "But I think it also was a Chivas team that wasn't as well balanced because there were a lot of (regulars) who weren't playing, there were young players who were in there as changes. Despite that, Tigres played a good match, but Chivas didn't put out their best XI to compete against Tigres."
That said, Pumas' back line hasn't exactly been resolute, with goals conceded to Toluca's Carlos Esquivel and Atlas' Clifford Aboagye during the week. Dario Veron must fight the hands of time to keep a reinvigorated Gignac and Co. in check if Pumas has any intention of getting points on the road.
Keep an eye on ... Tuzos' home streak
Pachuca's impressive undefeated streak at the Estadio Hidalgo is still in tact, though only barely. Tuzos didn't impress in either last week's CCL win over FC Dallas or the midweek game against Morelia, a scoreless draw, but still took their run to 31 matches without a loss at home.
The streak will again be on the line Saturday, when Pachuca welcomes Chivas to the Estadio Hidalgo. Chivas coach Matias Almeyda is putting an emphasis on this match (and/or next week's Copa MX final), resting several key players in a midweek defeat against Tigres. Who Almeyda plays, and if ex-Pachuca midfielder Rodolfo Pizarro is fit, will go a long way toward determining just how difficult it is for Pachuca to stay unblemished at home.
"We're going to try to look for that, to take advantage of the home-field advantage we have," goalkeeper Oscar Perez said Friday. "The home fans will be supporting us. We're going to give our best and look to win the match."
The streak has to end at some point, but a Chivas at anything less than full-strength may struggle to nab all three points against a Tuzos squad that is well-drilled defensively and has attacking weapons, despite the difficulty in scoring as of late.
Quote of the Week
"He's our captain, our leader. What's happening hurts us, and the team wants to do it for him, getting the victory and dedicating it to him, as he's going to be out for a while," Ricardo Reyes, Atlas defender, on missing Rafa Marquez.
Atlas sits seventh and hosts Santos, which is just above the home side in sixth this weekend. While the team is working to make the Liguilla, it will have to do it without Rafa Marquez, who underwent surgery Thursday and will likely miss the rest of Atlas' season.