Morelia, Xolos can make short work of playoff race

Edison Flores of Morelia celebrates after scoring for the Monarcas in his team's 2-2 draw against first place Santos Laguna. (Photo by Cesar Gomez/Jam Media/Getty Images)
Edison Flores of Morelia celebrates after scoring for the Monarcas in his team's 2-2 draw against first place Santos Laguna. (Photo by Cesar Gomez/Jam Media/Getty Images) /

If the current No. 7 and No. 8 seeds can win home games on Friday, the postseason situation will be much clearer.

On paper, the Liga MX seems to be promising a wild, wacky finish to the Apertura 2019 season as fully nine teams are in the fight for the final two playoff spots with two weekends remaining. Seventh-place Morelia and Eighth-place Tijuana could take much of the suspense out of the final matchdays, however, by winning home games on Friday night. But that’s easier said than done, at least for the Xolos.

As Matchday 18 prepares to kick off, Morelia and Tijuana hold down the final two playoff spots with 24 points each. Wins by the Monarcas and the Xolos on Friday night would eliminate all but two other teams (the Pumas and Pachuca), both of whom would have to win to take the chase to the final weekend. And if those two keep the race mathematically alive, they play each other on the final weekend.

The penultimate matchday gets under way on Friday night in Morelia as the Monarcas host bottom feeder Puebla (14 points). If the hosts win, they’ll move to 27 points, virtually clinching a ticket to the playoff dance.

Rayados visit Tijuana in best game of weekend

Morelia Tijuana playoffs
Tijuana will host Monterrey on Friday night with playoff survival at stake for both teams. (Photo by Fausto Vargas/Jam Media/Getty Images) /

The big game follows right after that, as big-ticket Monterrey (21 points, 11th place) will fight to keep its championship dreams alive. The Rayados must defeat the Xolos in Tijuana and wait to see what UNAM and Pachuca do. Monterrey has lost 5 of their 8 road games this season while Tijuana is one of three teams who is undefeated at home (Santos and León are the other two).

Failing to make the playoffs would be considered a disaster for Monterrey. The Rayados – boasting the league’s highest payroll – need to take all 3 points or slink home in embarrassment. Even a tie would only serve Monterrey if Morelia and the Pumas both fail to win.

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The Pumas (with 22 points in 9th place) will be favored to win at home against 16th place FC Juárez on Sunday. And UNAM fans know that if their team wins on Sunday, they’ll remain in the hunt on Matchday 19 as well (a road game at 10th-place Pachuca).

But a Monterrey win would lift the Rayados above the Xolos and make their season finale at home against Atlas a potential play-in game. A Xolos win, on the other hand, would bump the border town team up to 27 points and basically clinch a spot in the Liguilla and it would eliminate the Rayados.

At the top of the table, Santos has already clinched a spot in the playoffs and teams 2 through 6 (Necaxa, Querétaro, Tigres, América and León) would have to lose all their remaining games to fall out of the postseason picture. So all the interesting action involves those mid-table teams chasing the final two seats on the dance card.

As such, the outcome of the Friday night games will determine which weekend games are worth watching. If Morelia and Tijuana fail to win, Pachuca will go into Estadio Universitario knowing that a win over the fourth-place Tigres would set up a high-stakes showdown against the Pumas.

If Morelia and Tijuana simply earn draws on Friday night, Atlas, Cruz Azul, Atlético San Luis and the Chivas would be eliminated. However, such a circumstance would turn their Matchday 19 contests into veritable playoff games requiring at least a draw to qualify for the playoffs. Morelia would have to figure out how not to lose at Querétaro while the Xolos would remain in Tijuana and face León with a Liguilla spot on the line.