This past weekend in Mexico, a few big teams got some big results to add some excitement to the final three weeks of the Liga MX Clausura season. A couple teams stand out as contenders, but the rest of the table is so close it's hard to determine who will even make it to the liguilla.
Let's take a look back at this weekend's results, give you an idea of the teams that should challenge for the championship, who's headed for relegation, and what to watch this upcoming weekend in the 15th week of the 17 week season.
You can't talk about Liga MX without starting at the top - Tigres has been an unstoppable force for 13 straight weeks. Through their first 13 matches, Tigres were unbeaten, posting a league best 8-0-5 record with 29 points. Not only was this a match for points, it had the added feature of one of Mexico's biggest rivalries. Pumas were not only desperate for points in the playoff race, but had lost their last three matches against Tigres by a 11-1 goal differential.
Tigres' Tito Villa opened the scoring early and put Pumas in an early deficit. It was Villa's league leading ninth goal of the season. Just four minutes later though, Pumas midfielder Javier Cortes sent in a nice cross that was headed in by Hugo Ayala to his own net to level the match. In the 32nd minute, Martin Bravo scored what may be the goal of the week and his scissor kick off a corner stood as the game winning goal. The loss was the first of the year for Tigres, while Pumas jumped to fifth in the table with 23 points.
Santos continued their stellar play with a 2-1 win over Toluca at home. Toluca got on the board early, but two second half goals - one was a beauty by Oribe Peralta - gave Los Guerreros the win to move them to 26 points, just three points off the leaders.
While Monterrey and Cruz Azul are normally solid teams, both have spent much of the Clausura on the outside of the playoff picture looking in. That all changed this weekend when both got big home wins over their respective opponents.
Los Rayados beat a tough Pachuca team 2-0 in Estadio Tecnológico, while Cruz Azul absolutely dominated current Liga MX champions Club Tijuana 5-0. With the two victories, Cruz Azul and Monterrey sit in the final two playoff spots with 20 points each.
Trouble continues for Chivas de Guadalajara as bottom dweller Atlante got a huge road win in Estadio Omnilife. Rafael Marquez Lugo scored an early goal for the Goats, but two late goals (77', 89') doomed the club. With just three matches remaining, Chivas' playoff hopes are slim.
Over at Soccer Mexicana - an English language site dedicated to Mexican soccer - there is a nice feature on the who's who in Liga MX and I'd recommend checking it out. Here are my thoughts of the eight clubs currently holding on to a playoff position. I'm pretty sure these teams will change in the last three weeks of the season, and likely their outlook could as well.
Contenders: Tigres, Santos
Pretenders: Atlas, Morelia, Cruz Azul
It's Possible: Pumas, Monterrey
Epic Failures: America
In the relegation battle, Queretaro has pretty much secured their fate with their recent results. There is not much they can do to salvage the demotion and pretty soon we'll be talking about who replaces them. It's a bit early to decide that yet as both the Apertura and Clausura champions in the Ascenso MX play for promotion.
Jornada 15 Games to Watch
Friday: Monterrey at Santos
This is a big one for both clubs. Santos considers Los Rayados one of their biggest rivals, and both are set to meet in the CONCACAF Champions League finals soon. Monterrey just recently moved into a liguilla spot and will be hard pressed to give it up. Santos would love to challenge for the top spot in Mexico - the last time they had that, they won the championship.
Saturday: Chivas at Atlas
This is the Clasico Tapatio and should be a huge draw in Estadio Jalisco on Saturday. Atlas sits near the top of the table and are struggling to convince everyone they are a true contender. Chivas on the other hand are nearly eliminated from playoff contention and must win to keep any hopes alive.
Saturday: Pumas at America
In another huge rivalry game, the Eagles will host the Pumas at famed Estadio Azteca. America has taken the last two matches between their rivals, but Pumas know how important a road result is to their playoff hopes. This is likely to be a match full of action with both teams looking for the full three points.