Liga MX W2W4: Atlas to bid Rafa Marquez farewell at home vs. rivals Chivas
Liga MX is heading down the final stretch of the regular season with some playoff spots still up for grabs. Tom Marshall and Eric Gomez preview the must-see games of the penultimate weekend of the Liga MX regular season.
Marquez faces Chivas in final home game for Atlas
Rafa Marquez has not officially said that he'll be hanging up his boots at the end of the 2018 Clausura, but it has been implied in every interview he has given over the last couple of weeks. The goal for the Mexico legend, as he has said, is to finish the season with Atlas, get a call-up for the World Cup and finish his career in Russia becoming only the third player -- and second Mexican -- to appear at five different World Cups.
Friday's Clasico Tapatio will therefore almost certainly be Marquez's farewell appearance in an Atlas shirt in Estadio Jalisco. The Michoacan native has been the greatest player Atlas has produced, but he hasn't been able to deliver the institution a Liga MX title. The wait since the last one in 1951 goes on and while the club has produced the likes of Andres Guardado, Jared Borgetti, Pavel Pardo and Oswaldo Sanchez, Marquez was desperate to crown his career by breaking the long losing run.
The former Barcelona player and his Atlas side take on local Guadalajara rival Chivas in a game that Marquez's imminent retirement has overshadowed. One local Guadalajara newspaper called the derby the "decaffeinated clasico" due to the fact both teams come into the game already eliminated from making the playoffs. On top of that, Chivas are in the midst of the CONCACAF Champions League final against Toronto -- having won the first leg 2-1 at BMO Field -- and will be resting most their regulars.
Still, local pride is at stake and if it is Marquez's last game at home, so he'll want to bow out on a high note against Atlas' bitterest rivals, even if Chivas' focus is very much elsewhere.
Farewell to Estadio Azul
Cruz Azul also have a final home act as they play for the last time in Estadio Azul this weekend, with the most centrally located stadium of Mexico City's three first-division clubs being knocked down on July 2 to make way for a shopping mall and a hotel. Liguilla-contender Morelia is the opposition in what is still Liga MX's oldest stadium and what was once the home of Club America, Necaxa and Atlante, before Estadio Azteca -- where Cruz Azul will play its home games next season -- was built.
It's difficult to know how Cruz Azul fans will feel about leaving the place. It certainly hasn't been a stadium that has given Cruz Azul -- a team originally from the state of Hidalgo -- any kind of golden period. Cruz Azul moved there in 1996 and won the title the following year, but that started a drought that still goes on today.
Cruz Azul is not in the playoff reckoning, but Pedro Caixinha -- who is suspended for the game -- will want to finish the season on a high note before what is likely to be a busy transfer period for La Maquina. -- Tom Marshall
Puebla clings to life as Club America looks to clinch a playoff spot
It's been a case of split identity for Puebla this season. After the Camoteros hot start they looked destined to make the Mexican league playoffs for the first time in several seasons but their fortunes reversed toward the tail end of the semester.
In the midst of a five-game losing streak, Puebla still holds a slight hope of making the playoffs if they can snap out of their funk and win the next two games. Club America will be across the aisle this week, a team after points to acquire the highest possible seeding in the upcoming Liguilla.
Though Club America has been weak of late, they're doubly motivated to do well in Liga MX after bottoming out of the CONCACAF Champions League. Worse yet, their biggest rivals, Chivas, are in line to win that competition for the first time since 1962.
Following a tough 0-0 draw at the Estadio Azteca against Monterrey, Miguel Herrera's men will go on the road aiming to grab another league win and climb up the standings, with the added kick of handing Puebla their sixth consecutive loss.
Leon and Tijuana rekindle their rivalry in search of a playoff spot
Historically speaking, the rivalry between Leon and Tijuana has been brief -- but intense. Since Xolos was founded in 2007, they've clashed with Leon often, first in the Ascenso MX and later in the first division. Regardless of form, most of their clashes have been barnburners, sporting many goals -- as well as red cards.
Saturday's match will acquire an extra wrinkle of importance as both teams are just three points away from each other in the league table and harbor very real hopes of making the playoffs. Tijuana, with 21 points, sits seventh, while Leon has 18 and is 12th.
Tijuana's stout defense (just 11 goals allowed in 15 games) will be put to the test with Argentine hitman Mauro Boselli on the other side. The former Estudiantes striker has eight goals this season, most of those provided by Luis Montes, who has a Liga MX leading eight assists.
On the other side, Leon's defense will hope to get some stops -- their 32 goals allowed is worst in all of Liga MX -- against the tandem of Miller Bolanos and Gustavo Bou, who are gaining confidence and rhythm after the latter came back from injury earlier this season. -- ErIc Gomez