Liga MX W2W4: Tigres, Chivas risk missing playoffs; Cruz Azul get Pumas after Copa MX win
With the Liga MX playoffs only weeks away, here is what we are watching this weekend:
1. Morelia win could leave Tigres on brink of missing playoffs
For all the positives that should be associated with Morelia under Roberto Hernandez, it isn't usual for a Monarcas game to be the main talking point of the weekend, as unfair as that may be. But Morelia's home game against Tigres on Friday is the match of the weekend and one with huge repercussions for the playoff battle.
Monarcas have won their last three games and sit on 22 points in seventh place in the league, two points and one place above Tigres. A victory for Morelia would push the side up to 25 points, usually the golden number to make the playoffs, and put the Michoacan team on course for its fourth consecutive post-season since surviving relegation by the most slender of margins.
Raul Ruidiaz's transfer to Seattle Sounders in the summer naturally led to a difficult start to the season, but Hernandez has started Chilean playmaker Diego Valdes on the bench for the last three games in order to play two strikers -- Sebastian Ferreira and Miguel Sansores -- and the change has racked up nine points and a late-season surge.
Should Tigres lose this one, the odds will be against the 2017 Apertura champion making the playoffs. Pachuca (who play at home to Necaxa on Saturday), as well as Queretaro (home to Santos Laguna on Sunday) and Puebla (home to Chivas) will all be looking to take advantage of any slip-up.
Morelia and Tigres had very different problems heading into the Apertura. Morelia had to recuperate from the sale of striker Ruidiaz and his 40 goals over 72 league matches for the club, while Tigres coach Ricardo "Tuca" Ferretti -- who will be in charge of Mexico once again later this month -- had to find the solution to having almost an embarrassment of attacking riches. Ferretti has tinkered and tested different systems, without finding the success the quality of his squad demands.
Hernandez looks to have found the answer to his team's issues, while Ferretti is still scrambling for solutions. The question now is whether the veteran coach can get his team to click just in time to save Tigres' season.
2. After Copa MX win, Cruz Azul get derby with Cruz Azul
Pumas host Cruz Azul on Sunday in a Mexico City derby. Emotions will always be high for such games, but with fourth-placed Pumas and third-placed Cruz Azul almost guaranteed a place in the postseason, this game is more about pride and jockeying for position -- and a better playoff seed -- than being a must-win game.
That said, neither will want to lose.
Cruz Azul comes into the game having been crowned Copa MX champion against Monterrey. La Maquina has earned much praise this season and was the early leader, although they've been overtaken by Club America and Santos Laguna in recent weeks.
Coach Pedro Caixinha, an absolute obsessive for detail, will be watching his players very closely for any signs that they slacking off in the aftermath of the Copa MX win.
Pumas have exceeded expectations this Apertura, but haven't managed to win the plaudits like Cruz Azul, despite the 42 goals scored or conceded during their 14 games so far this season. Perhaps it is the fact Pumas are the team with fewest completed passes and highest percentage of long balls this season and aren't particularly invigorating to watch; maybe it is because the star player has been 25-year-old Carlos Gonzalez, an effective but unspectacular Paraguayan striker with a low profile.
Whatever it is, a victory at home would taste sweet for an unfashionable Pumas side, whose fans are starting to believe in David Patino's team.
3. Can Chivas prolong the seemingly inevitable?
Chivas have been ridiculed in recent weeks. The team is without a win since Aug. 15 in Liga MX and is on the brink of being eliminated from the playoffs. Only a victory on Friday on the road against Puebla will keep their hopes alive.
But off the field, things are even more concerning. The sale of the club's better players over the last three transfer windows is the main cause of Chivas' mid-table league position and a report on Thursday suggested striker Alan Pulido could be moving to Monterrey to join Rodolfo Pizarro.
And then the upcoming movie about Chivas' 2017 Clausura title win has served to remind fans of better times.
The club will represent CONCACAF at the Club World Cup in December, but the storm clouds are gathering and knives are being sharpened. A win against Puebla would hold off the waves of criticism that will come when the team is officially out of the Liguilla reckoning, unless Chivas can miraculously make the postseason.
La Franja won't be rolling over. Enrique Meza's team is coming into the match off the back of a fine 4-0 victory away to Leon and need the three points to remain in the playoff race.