EDGAR ZUNIGA - Thursday, November 8, 2012
For most Yanks, it's the end of the line. For others, like Herculez Gomez, it's a chance to stay alive. While for others, like the Trio in Tijuana, it's a battle for first place.
Morelia - Santos Laguna
Herculez Gomez and Santos Laguna travel to Morelia, where they have not won a match since the Apertura 2007 season. Having struggled through inconsistency, both teams come in desperate for a victory, with Morelia trying to avoid a loss that would have Santos leapfrog them, leaving them at the mercy of other results to fall in line in order for them to qualify to the playoffs.
For Santos, who are currently hanging on to the eighth and final playoff spot by their fingernails, things are a bit dicier. A win means they're in, while a draw or loss is practically a death knell, leaving them in a vulnerable spot where they can be easily overtaken by Jaguares, Monterrey, Tigres UANL, Atlante or Pumas.
While Gomez is expected to start, in a game of this magnitude, it is unlikely that Benji Joya, who has gone missing the past few weeks, will see any action.
Pachuca - Jaguares
Already eliminated from playoff contention, Pachuca's frustrating season finally comes to an end as they get a visit from a Jaguares squad foaming at the mouth for a win.
Jose Francisco Torres and his teammates have struggled mightily to generate any offense, and even their usually stout defense was dismantled last week by Club America to the tune of a four-goal beatdown.
Meanwhile, Jaguares will come in urged to extend their season, just one point away from a playoff spot. After a nightmare start where they lost four matches, Jaguares have come on very strong, losing only twice in 12 matches since, winning six of those encounters, and are fresh off a 3-0 mauling of Pumas.
Pachuca has traditionally gotten the better of Jaguares, but the team from Chiapas is undoubtedly stronger than the toothless Tuzos.
San Luis - Toluca
Michael Orozco and San Luis finally reach the end of a dismal season that has offered little if any positives whatsoever. Despite this, they can still end on a honorable note by putting up a good fight against one of the-if not the-strongest teams this season, in Toluca.
The Red Devils have already qualified for the playoffs but will be battling for top seeding, trying to stay ahead of resurgent Club America and second-place Club Tijuana.
In a game matching two teams heading in different directions, anything can happen. San Luis has nothing to play for and might throw all caution aside, while Toluca will come in wanting to finish strong and carry that momentum into the playoffs.
Orozco hasn't seen any action in a while, but with nothing at stake for San Luis, he might be back on the field.
The only injury worth noting is to San Luis midfielder César Villaluz.
Puebla - Querétaro
If you like to dunk your sugar-free soy cookies in light roast decaf, then this is the game to watch, pitting two awful teams in a game that has no bearing or consequence in the grand scheme of the cosmos.
Meanwhile, yet to score a goal, DaMarcus Beasley has gone through, arguably, the worst season of his professional career on a team that somehow found a way to win consecutive games in early October but has otherwise been lamentably appalling.
They could end the season with a slight (very slight) sense of accomplishment by defeating abysmal Querétaro, the whipping boys of Liga MX. However, that would be like taking joy out of picking on the smallest, sickliest kid at school.
Still, you never know. That sickly kid might suddenly go off in an explosion of pent-up frustration, which is why Puebla might be careful to avoid taking Querétaro too lightly.
Actually, Querétaro will be pressed to avoid going down as the worst team in league history, having accumulated only four points in 16 matches. A win would edge Querétaro beyond Ciudad Juárez's low mark of six points.
Chivas - Club Tijuana
The Three Amigos, Edgar Castillo, Joe Corona, and Greg Garza, travel with Club Tijuana to Guadalajara in what should be a lively encounter and a preview of a first-round playoff matchup.
With their playoff ticket already booked, the second-place Xoloitzcuintles are jockeying for the top seed in the postseason, and anything less than a victory is unacceptable. Toluca, who had a game in hand, played in Monterrey on Wednesday and were held to a 2-2 draw, bringing them even with Club Tijuana (but ahead on goal differential), going into the final week of the regular season.
As if dealing with Toluca wasn't enough, the Xolos are compelled to defeat Chivas unless they want to run the risk of suffering a cataclysmic drop to the fourth spot. With Club America on a warpath and León facing minnows Atlas, a Club Tijuana defeat or draw could tarnish what has been a superb season for the Xolos.
While a victory would ease those worries, it does not outright result in a first-place finish, as Toluca holds a +3 edge in goal differential over Club Tijuana. In the case of a Toluca victory over San Luis, this means that Tijuana would have to make birria out of Chivas and hope that San Luis holds Toluca to a respectable score.
However, a Toluca draw or (unlikely) loss to woebegone San Luis, coupled with a victory in Guadalajara, will give Club Tijuana sole possession of the top seed going into the playoffs.
Based on their commendable degrees of success, Castillo, Corona and Garza are all expected to play in this important encounter and might even have a part to play in a positive outcome for the gutsy Xolos.