On the Brink: Week 10-11

The table has turned, quite literally.

Leones Negros continued their improbable run of solid play with a win over Morelia on Friday night (that was quite probable). The win pushed Leones Negros above Puebla and Chivas in the relegation table.   I've long pointed out how just a few wins could push Leones Negros out of the dreaded last spot. This has now come to pass.

With the bottom place now up for grabs, attention shifted to the monumental match between Puebla and Chivas on Saturday. Only two points separated the teams, hence a win for either side would push the other to the bottom of the relegation table. It didn't get much bigger than this.

Expectations demanded that this would be a contest with maximum intensity. Neither side could afford to leave anything in the tank. Luckily for the neutral observers, neither side did.

From the opening kick, both sides were pushing at full force. There wasn't always an over-abundance of quality on display, but undoubtedly the weightiness and magnitude of a final. The fouls were hard. Coming by a decent scoring chance was even harder. The first scoring came from a likely source in such a physical match - the penalty spot. Puebla took the lead from a mistimed foul and carried that 1-0 advantage into halftime.

Chivas, with a crushing defeat in front them, came out for the second half and took  control. They exerted their dominance and pushed for an equalizer. Puebla remained dangerous on the counter, but were unable to find the dagger. The game remained in this state until Chepo de la Torre realized that his best striker was permitted to play in league matches in addition to the Copa MX. Erick 'Cubo' Torres entered and wrote his name into Chivas lore. His first goal was a thunder strike that leveled the score line and got Chivas out of incredible danger. His second goal (with as sloppy as it was) gave Chivas a five point cushion in the relegation race and guaranteed Cubo free drinks in Guadalajara for the rest of his life.

Veracruz had their undefeated streak broken in Tijuana this past week. The loss isn't devastating for Veracruz who still find themselves in decent position. There is now only one Liga MX team facing devastation - Puebla.

One team stands alone at this point. Puebla sits five points below Chivas with seven games to go. All of the pressure in on La Franja.

TABLA DE DESCENSO

15. Veracruz - 61 games played - 70 points - 1.1475 ppg

16. Leones Negros - 27 games played - 30 points - 1.1111 ppg

17. Chivas - 95 games played - 105 points - 1.1053 ppg

18. Puebla - 95 games played - 100 points - 1.0526 ppg

Veracruz will be following up their first loss with a visit from Club America (who are also coming off a tough loss in Concacaf Champions League). This is a tough spot to battle back into good results, but Veracruz has proven they are more than capable of doing just that. This should be a good match and highly contested. I expect a draw.

Leones Negros will be hosting a reeling Chiapas squad. There are no layups for Leones Negros, but this is one of the easiest ones they will have. Jaguares are weak on the road. This is a must win for Leones Negros, and they should get the three points here.

Puebla and the 1.000 lb. gorilla of pressure travel to the CU to face Pumas on Sunday. Pumas seem to be getting into a rhythm of late. Pumas certainly don't need this one as much as Puebla, but I also think Pumas are just a better team. This could be the death nail for Puebla. I think Pumas get another win and crush Puebla's hopes.

Chivas are in the tough spot of following up on the emotional win with a home match with Toluca. Chivas don't normally perform well in these spots. Yet, I don't totally trust this Toluca team either. They are a bit hit or miss and seem to be missing something this season. With the capability for any result, the draw seems like the safe bet.

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* Relegation in Liga MX is determined based on the lowest points per game for the past three years or six seasons including the present. Veracruz and Leones Negros are recently promoted and haven't been in the league for three years. Hence, they have played fewer matches and their points per game number fluctuates more than that of Puebla or Chivas.

** I still can't add Queretaro, Pachuca, or Chiapas to this relegation race realistically. Queretaro (with the lowest percentage of the three and looking the worst) is still pretty far removed from Chivas and Puebla in the rankings. Basically, Puebla would need to be 15 points better than Queretaro the rest of the way AND Chivas would need to be 10 points better AND both Veracruz and Leones Negros would need to continue their winning ways. It can happen; it's just an extremely long shot at this point. We'll see how this looks in a few more weeks.

*** Artwork is used under a Creative Commons license from charamelody

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