By Tom Marshall
It’s the last weekend of games in the Mexican Primera Division before the playoffs begin. For fans of the teams that don’t make it, a long wait until January when the league starts all over again is in store. With six teams still in the hunt for the three remaining places, it promises to be a topsy-turvy 48 hours.
Game of the week: America v Pumas
Without doubt the biggest game of the weekend takes place in the Estadio Azteca between Mexico City teams America and Pumas on Sunday afternoon. Apart from the intense rivalry the two teams share, Pumas have to win to have a chance of qualifying. If by Sunday night, Pumas need three points to make it through, expect an intense game both on and off the pitch.
Previous games between the two have led to spates of violence between supporters outside the stadium. The Pumas supporters’ group, CU, is known as the wildest in Mexico.
Part of the traditionally anti-establishment UNAM, Latin America’s biggest university, Pumas’ players sing the team’s anthem along with fans, clench-fisted right arms aloft, before each home game. In contrast, America are owned by huge TV corporation Televisa and are very much part of Mexico’s establishment.
There might only be three points up for grabs, but there’s a whole history at work when America play Pumas. Don’t miss it!
Friday, November 12
Necaxa v Pachuca (8:10 p.m.)
Currently sitting in a playoff position thanks to goals scored, Pachuca need a big win to confirm their place. A tie or loss would likely see them heading for an early vacation, but that depends on how Toluca and Pumas fare. Necaxa too will be desperate for three points with relegation next summer a real possibility unless they pick up some serious points between now and then.
Saturday, November 13
Queretaro v Jaguares (5 p.m.)
Queretaro are another team fighting for their place in the Mexican top flight while Jaguares de Chiapas need one point to secure a place in the playoffs. Lose and it could be a nervous-wrenching 24-hours waiting for other results to come in for Jaguares.
Cruz Azul v San Luis Potosi (5 p.m.)
With both teams already in the playoffs it may be a case of taking it easy and resting some players.
Monterrey v Guadalajara Chivas (5 p.m.)
A fixture that would usually stand out between teams from Mexico’s second and third most important city (depending on which you are from). Monterrey are already through to the playoffs while Chivas fans should be praying to the Virgin of Guadalupe: they need a minor miracle and for Pumas, Toluca, Pachuca and Morelia all to lose. Oh, and they need to actually scores goals and beat Monterrey.
Santos v Estudiantes Tecos (7 p.m.)
Representatives from Glasgow Celtic were in Torreon this week to look round the Santos Laguna club with a view to a possible partnership. This game is dead rubber however. Santos already qualified and Estudiantes haven’t and aren’t in danger of relegation.
Atlas v Tigres (8:45 p.m.)
Another Guadalajara v Monterrey affair. A win for Tigres UANL and they book their place in the playoffs. Anything else and they’ll have to rely on other results going in their favor.
Sunday, November 14
Morelia v Puebla (midday)
Morelia, the team from the state of Michoacan, need to win and hope Pumas, Toluca and Pachuca all lose. They sit one point above Chivas however.
Toluca v Atlante (midday)
Current champions Toluca could be out if results don’t go their way this weekend. New Mexico boss Jose Manuel de la Torre will have more time to plan but it’d be a sad way for him to leave after two glorious years in charge of Mexico’s Red Devils and two championships to his name. With what should be an easy win over Atlante they need two of 1/ Pachuca to lose or tie 2/ Pumas to lose or tie and/or 3/ Tigres to lose. Toluca usually sneak into the playoffs though, so don’t bet against them.
America v Pumas (4:30 p.m.)
A sad fact for Mexico fans: Foreigners have scored 207 goals in the Mexican league this season, Mexicans 140 goals. No Mexican-born player appears in the top 10 goalscorers’ list.