Tom Marshall: Playoff race tightening in Liga MX

The curtain closes on the Liga MX for two weeks as attention turns to World Cup qualifiers, but the season is set up nicely for an epic last six rounds of matches.
The Liga MX playoff race is starting to get very interesting.

At the very top of the league, there are reasons to think that Tigres aren’t quite as comfortable as earlier in the season, with Chivas holding out for a 1-1 tie on Saturday to make it four games without a home win for the Monterrey side.

There is also a degree of friction between the fans and coach Ricardo Ferretti after his bizarre decision to send reserves to play the CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinal second leg in Seattle - a decision which cost his team dearly.

Atlas also slipped up this weekend and is in a fragile place considering the problems the board has with paying players. It’s a difficult situation and it isn’t beyond the realm of possibility that the Rojinegros’ bubble could burst at any moment.

In third, America has not been looking quite the destructive force it seemed in the first half of the Clausura season and has only one win in five after Saturday’s poor 1-1 draw against San Luis.

One team on the rise is certainly Santos Laguna, which is now level on points with America. There were some initial teething problems with new coach Pedro Caixinha, but a defensive reorganization is now nearing completion, setting up the club well for the rest of the season.

Tucked in behind is Pachuca, which is a dark horse if it can sort out its away form, with quality players like Angel Reyna, Hector Herrera and Daniel Luduena capable of taking apart any team on their day.

Saturday’s 2-1 comeback victory over Puebla showed that Gabriel Caballero’s players have the kind of spirit that looked noticeably absent last season under Hugo Sanchez.

Only three points separate sixth-placed Pumas with 13th placed Puebla and it is in these places that there should be some fun in the last six rounds of games.

Pumas may not be the most inspiring team, but the Mexico City university club has been quietly improving and moving up the table and is now undefeated in eight league games.

Falling the other way is Club Tijuana, which has started to struggle with the demands of juggling the Copa Libertadores and the Liga MX. Tijuana may be in seventh, but one win in seven means Xolos need to stop the rot, and quickly, after the international break.

Queretaro hasn’t really been getting the credit it deserves for sitting ahead of bigger name teams, but it’s all about staying in the league for Gallos Blancos this season and San Luis is now only four points from its grasp.

One of the bigger name teams among the playoff fighters is Chivas. The sooner Marco Fabian comes back the better, with Benjamin Galindo’s team now very well organized and grinding out results, but still missing the player who can be the spark that turns ties into wins.

Memo Vazquez has come under massive criticism at Cruz Azul and some would say rightly so after some seriously below-par performances in recent weeks. Sunday’s 3-0 victory over Atlante was Cruz Azul’s first win in seven games, but with the quality within the squad it would be foolish to write it off.

Another team that has been a let down is Monterrey. On paper, the Rayados should be right at the top of the league, but just two points from away games speaks to the main problem the two-time defending CONCACAF Champions League champions have faced.

Morelia boasts one of the most devastating offenses in the Liga MX with Joao Rojas, Jefferson Montero, Hector Mancilla and Aldo Ramirez that attack reaching its full potential will be key to the Monarcas’ chances of making the playoff.

One of the more direct teams in the Liga MX, Puebla causes problems and Manuel Lapuente has done an excellent job at a club that had become a bit of a laughing stock. La Franja are still outsiders for the playoffs, but don’t write off any side managed by Lapuente.

Like Tijuana, Toluca has struggled with playing the Libertadores and the Liga MX and, if there isn’t an improvement, could miss out on making an imprint on both tournaments.

Only Jaguares, Atlante, Leon and San Luis are all but out of the playoff reckoning at this stage, meaning there is plenty to play for in what remains of the Clausura.

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