Your Liga MX Jornada 17 Primer

With one week remaining in the Liga MX regular season, much has yet to be determined. Only three teams have guaranteed themselves a spot in the Liguilla (Cruz Azul, Toluca, and Pumas). This leaves the remaining five playoff places open to a shockingly still eligible eleven teams.

This leaves us with a full slate of high-stakes matches across the weekend schedule. In fact, the only match that doesn't have at least one team trying to lock down postseason play is the always tightly-contested Cruz Azul - Pumas meeting. With the general parity of the league and the lack of an advantage to the higher-seeded teams, the title is open to all but the eliminated four teams (only figuratively speaking, Chivas fans). Hence, cancel your other plans this weekend. Here's what you'll be watching:

Friday, April 25

8:30 ET: Queretaro (21 pts.) v. Pachuca (21 pts.)

It would be hard to find two more unpredictable sides in the league. Just when you think one of these clubs is putting it together they get handled by Chivas. Both of these clubs have had great wins and played some excited football and both of these teams lost to Atlante this season. You'd have to be a fool to make a prediction on this one ...

Prediction:  Pachuca has been all over the place both home and away, but Queretaro has been pretty tough in the Corregidora. Now that their ownership situation is a little more settled, I expect this team to be playing closer to their potential. I see Queretaro getting the win here (3-1).

10:30 ET: Tijuana (24 pts.) v. Leon (20 pts.)

Leon is coming off their disappointing  elimination in the Copa Libertadores. Now they must turn on everything they have to match the equally hungry Xolos. Tijuana, who are still smarting from their tough Concacaf Champions League exit, will be looking to continue the strong play in the Estadio Caliente. A draw will see the Xolos through, but Leon need the win and some help to qualify.

Prediction: This is a tough one to call. Leon is the better team, but this is a bad time for a must-win match.  I would assume the team is physically and mentally drained. A trip to Tijuana is tough for teams on full rest. With that being said, I still don't totally trust this Xolos club. They should have enough to pull off the draw though, which is how I see this one ending (1-1).  

Saturday, April 26

6:00 ET: Cruz Azul (in) v. Pumas (in)

Neither of these teams have anything to play for. They're both in and have no real advantage to gain. However, Pumas have a slight advantage in the motivation department. They could bolster their confidence with a win over a rival and ensure a higher seed. Cruz Azul would likely be best served by resting their players after the Concacaf Champions League Final before the Liguilla run.

Prediction: I expect Pumas to get the win over the Cruz Azul bench (0-1).

6:00 ET: Veracruz (out) v. Santos (24 pts.)

Santos have a great chance of qualifying for the Liguilla. A draw against lowly Veracruz will see them through. As it turns out, they could really use the boost. Their miserable performance in the Copa Libertadores knock-out stage should have a bad taste in their collective team mouth (gross). Do they have enough gas in the tank at this point to get it done?

Prediction:  Sort of. I think they should still get the win here, but it may not be pretty. I'm also downgrading them  from Liguilla sleepers to Liguilla hibernating bears (2-3).

8:00 ET: Tigres (out) v. Atlas (21 pts.)

Atlas is fighting for a playoff spot and Tigres has already been eliminated. It feels weird typing that. It feels weird even thinking about it. The Atlas resurgence is great for a fan base that could really use some positives. This is the type of team that could shock a stronger group in the postseason. They just need to visit El Volcan and get a win (a draw with a lot of help could get it done, as well).

Prediction: Tigres have only allowed six goals in their seven home games this season. Atlas has only scored sixteen goals in their sixteen games. I'd say there's a good chance Atlas ends this match with one goal. But will Tigres score? Tigres have a grand total of eleven goals this season. I don't see them getting more than one. A one-one draw and Atlas fans being disappointed seems about right.    

10:00 ET: Chiapas (20 pts.) v. Atlante (very much out)

So, if you're going to skip one match ... Chiapas has an outside chance of making the Liguilla with a win and some key losses from others. But really, skip this one.

Prediction: The result of this match will be irrelevant.  

    ... But if I really need to, I'd say Chiapas wins 2-1.

Sunday, April 27

1:00 ET: Puebla (out) v. Morelia (21 pts.)

Morelia are coming off their trouncing of Cruz Azul (Hidalgo-like) last weekend. They have the momentum that could carry them in to the playoffs as a somewhat dangerous club. Considering the disaster that this season was for Monarcas, this is quite the feat.

Prediction:  In my time of making Liga MX predictions, I have one tenet that holds true more often than not - never pick Puebla. Morelia wins 1-3.  

1:00 ET: Toluca (in) v. America (24 pts.)

If this game was taking place any other weekend, it would be far and away the marquee match in the league. Now, we must settle for simply interesting with one-sided impacts. America are likely going to qualify for the Liguilla. Barring a lopsided loss and other unfortunate results, America will be just fine. Toluca has nothing to gain from any result in this match (unless you subscribe to the theory that they need a positive result after the disappointing Champions League loss ... which I don't). One would assume Toluca could take it easy in this match.

Prediction: A fairly dull match. Both Toluca and America would be more than pleased with a draw, which is what we should get (0-0).

6:00 ET: Chivas (21 pts.) v. Monterrey (20 pts.)

Jose G. Cruz brings his Rayados in to the Omnilife to face Jose Luis Real's Chivas with playoffs on the line for both clubs.  err ... actually, no. Two other coaches (I dare not use their names as they may be factually inaccurate by the time of publication) bring these two sides in to a must-win match. Chivas has been better under the new regime, but are hardly a mark of consistency. Monterrey continues to disappoint and are going through a fairly rough patch. Both teams could really use this win. Then again, it's entirely possible that the result of this match is rendered pointless by previous results. In that case, find some NBA playoffs or something.

Prediction: All scenarios are on the table when it comes to Chivas. They are equally as likely to win this game as Vergara is to getting in another luxury suite altercation. I'm taking nothing off the table. With these toss-up games the easy bet is with the negative Chivas outcome. Humberto Suazo's return from injury and to form doesn't hurt with this pick either. Monterrey wins (1-2).

If all of my picks play out to form (and why wouldn't they?), here is the final table:

1. Cruz Azul - 33  (+7) 

2. Toluca - 32  (+11)

3. Pumas - 28  (+8)

4. Santos - 27  (+5)

5. America - 25  (+4)

6. Tijuana - 25  (0)

7. Morelia - 24  (+5)

8. Queretaro - 24  (-1)

9. Monterrey - 23  (0)

10. Chiapas - 23  (-2)

11. Atlas - 22  (0)

12. Leon - 21  (+5)

13. Pachuca - 21  (-1)

14. Chivas - 21  (-5)

15. Tigres - 19  (-9)

16. Atlante - 18  (-10)

17. Puebla - 15  (-9)

18. Veracruz - 15  (-12)

 

This leaves us with these Liguilla match-ups:

(1) Cruz Azul v. (8) Queretaro

(2) Toluca v. (7) Morelia

(3) Pumas v. (6) Tijuana

(4) Santos v. (5) America

In other words, enjoy the Leon v. Rayados final. 


** the photo is used under a Creative Commons license from dubside

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