Here are your five conclusions from the seventeenth week of play in the 2018 Liga MX Apertura.
Cruz Azul finish as “superlider”
There was never a question about it. Cruz Azul were the most consistent team across the regular season and officially put a seal on their “superliderato” by beating Monarcas Morelia 2-0. Morelia had one final chance to finish the season in the top-eight, but Robert Hernandez’s men were just not good enough to beat a Cruz Azul team that deservedly finished the Apertura as the top seed.
For Cruz Azul, the real season now starts. Will this finally be their year?
Pachuca disappoint, Querétaro rejoice
Monarcas Morelia’s failure to qualify on the last day opened the door for two teams to potentially sneak into the Liguilla. One of those teams was Querétaro who earlier in the day had done their job by beating Necaxa 1-0 at the Estadio Corregidora. This left Pachuca needing to win, while at the same time Querétaro prayed that León earned at least a draw.
On paper, Pachuca’s game wasn’t exactly the most difficult. Coupled with the fact that the game was being played at the Estadio Hidalgo, León arrived to this match already eliminated and with basically nothing to play for.
But as Liga MX tends to do sometimes, the illogical happened and León came back from a goal down to earn a 1-1 draw, eliminating the Tuzos in the process. This gave Querétaro their first playoff berth since Ronaldinho was there and their young head coach, Rafael Puente Jr, everything to cheer about.
Por momentos como este, valen la pena todos los sacrificios. Una muestra de que el abandonar la zona de confort da miedo sí, pero te permite vivir momentos indescriptibles como este. Lo soñamos y estamos en liguilla @rafaelpuente . ¡Venga @Club_Queretaro ! pic.twitter.com/ZBq87zyITl— Chiquis (@chiquis_) November 25, 2018
Gignac clinches scoring title
Andre-Pierre Gignac didn’t score on Saturday, but his team defeated Chivas 1-0 at the Estadio Akron to finish the regular season sixth in the league table. Tigres’s end of the regular season meant Gignac officially clinched the league’s scoring title with 14 goals, his second scoring title in Mexico since arriving in 2015. .
Obviously, Gignac isn’t getting any younger, but nobody can deny the impact he has had at Tigres and the rest of the league. Earlier in the week Gignac signed a contract extension with the Felinos and you’d expect the club’s desire is he stays until he retires.
Next in Gignac’s agenda is this season’s Liguilla, starting with Pumas UNAM in the Quarterfinals. Tigres have won every single Apertura since 2015, and there is no denying they are one of the favorites to win it once again.
Club América finish the regular season in style
It’s not like Club América are blowing the competition away, but as incredulous as it may sound, after beating Veracruz 3-1 in their last regular season game, Las Águilas have now gone a total of 11 straight Liga MX games without a defeat. Sure, they’ve drawn three times in their last four games, but the fact that they haven't lost for so long carries plenty of weight going into the Liguilla.
Moreover, finishing as the second seed is huge for Las Águilas. Miguel Herrera’s men have been near-impossible to beat at the Estadio Azteca (which is still recovering from its turf issues), and along with Cruz Azul and Tigres, are primed to be the big players in this Liguilla.
Another Liguilla that looks promising
Out of the “top four” teams in Mexico, only Chivas misses out, as the dream of having all four of Mexico’s most popular teams in the Liguilla will have to wait another six months.
That being said, that’s something we knew well beforehand. At the end, there is sure to be no shortage of storylines. There is a reason why the Liguilla is called the “Fiesta Grande”. As ever, there is fascinating matchups to look forward to and history to be written.