Monterrey and Toluca spiraled further into crisis in midweek, but there were some more positive stories in round 14. Let’s recap the three takeaways from this week’s action:
Atlas Have a Top Four Spot in Their Sights
From battling relegation to a top four fight. Last season, Atlas narrowly escaped a hefty fine for finishing last in the tabla de cociente, but this term they have continued their progression into one of the division’s best outfits. Los Zorros currently sit second after a share of the spoils with reigning champions Cruz Azul on Tuesday, and a favorable remaining schedule means that an automatic playoff place is within reach.
Diego Cocca’s charges close out the regular season against three teams in the bottom half of the table. A tricky trip to San Luis is up first, but Los Tuneros have taken only five of their 17 points at the Estadio Alfonso Lastras. In the penultimate round, last-placed Tijuana visit the Estadio Jalisco. Finally, a Querétaro side that haven’t won on the road since February 2020 will attempt to break that duck on November 4th.
All of those matches are winnable for a club whose success has been built around a dominant defense. Los Zorros are on pace to set the record for fewest goals conceded in a single short season, and they boast one of the league’s premier shot-stoppers in the shape of Camilo Vargas. If their rigid rearguard can hold firm, Atlas have what it takes to tie up a top four place.
Puebla Picking Up Steam
After nearly setting a club record for regular season points during the Guard1anes 2021, the only way seemed to be down for Puebla and Nicolás Larcamón. The precocious Argentinean boss turned heads in his first campaign in Mexico, but his work this term has arguably been more impressive.
A host of summer sales saw Los Camoteros lose a trio of their most talented players. Omar Fernández and Santiago Ormeño departed for Léon, while marauding left-back Salvador Reyes joined América. Even without those key names, however, they are in the thick of the repechaje race.
Puebla are 9th after winning three of their last four matches, and old friends Fernández and Ormeño pay a visit to the Estadio Cuauhtémoc this Saturday. A victory in that reunion would almost surely sew up a playoff place for a team that took only three points from the first 18 on offer.
Pumas Still Have Hope
It is a sign of how evenly-matched this campaign has been that a side who won just one of their first 11 games could still secure a postseason berth. Pumas still have plenty of work to do if they want to turn what seemed like a pipe dream just days ago into reality, but they have renewed belief after a timely run of form.
Back-to-back wins over Juárez and León have left Los Universitarios just two points off 12th-placed Santos, and those two will do battle at the Estadio Olímpico Universitario before the campaign concludes. The capital club are one of a handful of sides with a game in hand, and if they can take at least eight points from 12 they would be almost assured of a playoff place.
Getting the requisite results won’t be easy but having Juan Dinenno at his best would be a big help. The lanky Argentinean has looked lost without Carlos González since the Paraguayan predator left for Tigres ahead of the Guard1anes 2021, but a poacher’s finish against Los Esmeraldas could boost his wavering confidence.