MEXICO CITY – The international dates will add a layer of intrigue to Mexico’s regular season finale, as Week 17 will be pushed back to accommodate the plethora of national teams that will take the field in the coming days. Most of the playoff field has been set, but there is still the chance we’ll see some surprises towards the very end of the Apertura 2018.
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1. CRUZ AZUL
Week 15 ranking: 1
There is one major reason for Cruz Azul’s success this season: the Estadio Azteca. In nine games since moving back to Mexico City’s colossus, La Maquina have won eight of nine — the 0-0 draw against Club America their only blemish. On Saturday, despite an early goal from Lobos’ Leo Ramos, a first-half comeback gave them their latest victory.
2. CLUB AMERICA
Week 15 ranking: 2
Only one team has gone undefeated in their last six games. However, Club America has only culled ten points from that admittedly tough stretch. On Sunday, they drew for the fourth time in that span and essentially gifted the top of the league table to rivals Cruz Azul.
3. PUMAS UNAM
Week 15 ranking: 4
Pumas has won an astounding six of nine away games this season, making them especially dangerous come playoff time. They are the most successful team when not playing on their home ground, grabbing 20 of their 29 points this season under the criteria. Last weekend, they went into one of the most notoriously difficult grounds in Mexico — Toluca — and pulled out a 1-0 win.
4. SANTOS LAGUNA
Week 15 ranking: 3
Santos’ tandem of Julio Furch and Jonathan Rodriguez have accounted for 20 of Santos Laguna’s 26 goals this season. Teams facing the defending champs have to account for this particular anomaly: there have been only two games this season in which neither Furch nor Rodriguez have scored. On Sunday, Furch’s goal against Club America was good enough to grab a draw.
Week 15 ranking: 5
If games were over by halftime, Monterrey would be in a vastly different position than they are at the moment. Diego Alonso’s team has led the game going into the midpoint seven times this season, with only Club America having greater success. However, they sit in fifth going into the last weekend — but still have a shot at reaching as high as second place as they face one of the league’s worst teams in Atlas.
6. UANL TIGRES
Week 15 ranking: 7
The surge behind Tigres in recent weeks has put other teams on notice. In their last six games, they’ve scored 17 goals, including the six they put past Puebla on Saturday. This team always seems to find its best form as they get close to the playoffs, a terrifying proposition for opponents considering how good their squad is.
Week 15 ranking: 8
Morelia’s four wins in their last five games have put them in the driver’s seat for a potential playoff berth. In two weeks, their showdown against Cruz Azul will, however, be crucial in determining whether the squad finishes in the top half or misses the postseason entirely.
Week 15 ranking: 6
Contrary to Morelia, Toluca’s form in recent weeks has been disappointing. Their seven points in their last five games have dropped them to seventh in the league table and put them in very real danger of missing out on their quest to make the finals a second consecutive season. The good news? They visit Lobos BUAP on November 25 to close out the season — a very winnable game.
Week 15 ranking: 8
Their unexpected draw last weekend against Veracruz was an unexpected knock against them in their bid to make the playoffs. There are five teams sitting within three points of Queretaro’s 23 points as we gear up for the season’s final match day. After blowing an easy three points in Veracruz, they will come home to face Necaxa in the hopes to wrap up a playoff spot.
Week 15 ranking: 10
Luckily for Queretaro, Pachuca also whiffed on a golden opportunity to move up the league table. Tasked with beating Atlas, Pachuca managed only a 0-0 draw in Week 16, complicating their scenario with one game to go. On November 24, they will be home to Leon, a team that — on paper at least — they should be able to beat.
Week 15 ranking: 13
Despite the trash fire of a season they’ve put together thus far, Chivas still had a fringe shot at making the playoffs going into the weekend. The win against Leon puts lipstick on the pig, but the reality is Jose Cardozo’s first season in charge will be remembered more for the team’s dysfunction off the pitch than anything else.
Week 15 ranking: 12
The 6-1 loss at Tigres UANL killed any chance of Puebla making the playoffs. After a brilliant start last season, their last 25 games or so have been shocking. Despite the restraint shown for veteran coach Enrique Meza, this winter presents a good opportunity for the team to reset and try to rebuild with another core group of players and manager.
13. LOBOS BUAP
Week 15 ranking: 13
As expected, Lobos BUAP’s fantastic run late in the season came to an end against Cruz Azul on Saturday. After leading early through Leo Ramos’ goal, Lobos’ defense coughed up two goals before the halftime whistle. Even then, this season can be considered a marked improvement over the Clausura 2018.
Week 15 ranking: 14
Earlier in the season, Leon’s signings put them in the category of a dark horse to make the playoffs and potentially make a splash. They’ve since fired their coach and begun to unravel despite improving on defense, their Achilles’ heel last season. Once a perennial contender, Leon’s recent seasons have been disappointing to say the least.
Week 15 ranking: 15
Speaking of disappointments, Necaxa committed to a young Mexican coach who promised to revolutionize and refresh the league with newer concepts. After little more than half a season, Necaxa pulled the plug. Frankly, that was the only interesting thing about the team in the Apertura.
Week 15 ranking: 17
Three straight draws have pulled Atlas out of the cellar. Next season will be Rafa Marquez’s first full semester in charge. Will the former great be able to pull his team out of obscurity and into the spotlight?
Week 15 ranking: 18
In their last three full seasons, Veracruz have managed to grab 42 out of a possible 150 points – just 28% since July 2017. If relegation is confirmed this winter, Los Tiburones are prime candidates to go down.
18. CLUB TIJUANA
Week 15 ranking: 17
Last season, Tijuana made the playoffs under Diego Cocca with a roster not too different to this one. It’s gone downhill this semester, with Cocca gone and the team slumping towards the bottom half of the table.