Liga MX Pachuca vs Pumas & Necaxa vs Querétaro Play-In Previews

Four teams, two spaces available. Who will make up the final two spots in the 2024 Liga Mx Clausura Playoffs?
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Club América and Cruz Azul are waiting for the playoffs as the top two performers in the Clausura regular season. Competing for a chance to face either of these teams are Pachuca, Pumas, Necaxa, and Querétaro.

Pachuca vs Pumas

This Thursday, 2nd May, 21:00 CST, Pachuca and Pumas will go head-to-head with the 7th seed status being the prize at stake. An immediate advantage for this clash lies in favour of Pumas, whilst the Mexico City side has almost an entire week to rest and prepare for this game, their rivals, Pachuca, will have less than 48 hours. This is due to their CONCACAF Champions League Semi Final 2-1 win over Club America, two days prior Tuesday 30th April.

The game has been organized for Thursday evening, in line with the Necaxa - Queretaro match, however, Pachuca requested a day extension, given the Hidalgo side's busy schedule although it appears that the request was denied with the game still set to take place on Thursday, ESPN reports.

The loser of this matchup will have one last opportunity to qualify for the playoffs, this time as the 8th seed. As the rules are set, the loser between Pachuca and Pumas will face the winner of Necaxa and Querétaro for the chance to play Club America in the first round of the playoffs proper.

The two sides faced each other back in January. A game which set the pace for Pumas' fine start to the season, winning the game by a score of 3-1. What can be remembered from the game was the three goals in four minutes as Pumas took a 2-1 lead within the first 20 minutes. Goals from Ulises Rivas and former Benfica winger Eduardo Salvio put Pumas on their way to three points before Salvio grabbed his second of the game.

While the previous fixture between these two favors Pumas, it is important to factor in their record away from home. In the Clausura, Los Universitarios won only one away game, coming in a 4-0 victory against Mazatlán. Beyond that, their last win on the road was a 4-1 win over Cruz Azul in October 2023.

Team News

As for the team news, Pumas defender Jesus Rivas is a doubt for the game. Having been out of action since the start of March, Rivas is nursing an ankle injury.

Pachuca has a few more worries within their squad as Celso Ortiz is a doubt through a knee injury which he picked up back in January, whilst former Celta Vigo centre-back Gustavo Cabral picked up a knock during the CONCACAF Champions League first leg with Club America and remains a doubt for both the return clash with America and for the playoff game with Pumas. The one definite absentee for this game will be Israel Luna, the 22-year-old suffered a cruciate ligament injury and is set to be out of action for the remainder of 2024.

Necaxa vs Querétaro

In the other match-up, it will be one which will either eliminate Necaxa or Querétaro from playoff contention. A clash that does not automatically qualify the winner but gives them a chance to face the loser between Pachuca and Pumas to enter the playoffs proper.

While Necaxa enters the fray as the higher-qualified side, earning three points more than their Thursday night competitors, their record coming into the all-important clash leaves a lot to be desired. Conceding ten goals from the last two games of the regular season against Tigres and Monterrey, Eduardo Fentanes' side will come into this game hoping to forget all about the recent form.

As for Querétaro, who are on a current three-game winless streak, their run before this saw Los Gallos Blancos go on a nine-game streak without defeat. An impressive streak, but the issue for Querétaro has been their ability in front of goal. Scoring more than two goals only twice during this Clausura campaign, their top goalscorer heading into this clash with Necaxa is 36-year-old winger Pablo Barrera, who contributed five goals.

While there is cause for doubt for both sides, neutrals can expect an even game, with two of their last three matches ending in a draw, including their most recent meeting as Diego Gomez secured a point for Necaxa in the 93rd minute.

Team News

Both sides have almost a full squad to choose from ahead of this game. Necaxa will be missing central midfielder Alek Alvarez, who sustained a shoulder injury back in February, whilst Queretaro continues to miss Jonathan Perlaza, who has been out of action since August 2023 with a cruciate ligament injury.