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Liga MX W2W4: Leon's playoff chase

Liga MX
 By Nayib Moran

America keeps top place but Santos Laguna is on the rise

Cecilio Dominguez and Club America couldn't beat Club Tijuana but stayed unbeaten in Liga MX.

MEXICO CITY -- Liga MX's 2018 Clausura has reached its midway point and the main talking point has been that that clubs like America and Santos have started the season strong while last season's finalists, Tigres and Monterrey, have yet to find their groove.

The season is bound to have some electrifying weeks to come, too, as clubs like Puebla and Necaxa hope to finish among the top eight and defy the odds. A club like Pachuca, who's finally found a consistent XI, might potentially close out the regular season in style and join Tigres, Monterrey, America and Santos on the fun.

Here are the Power Rankings for Week 9:

1. CLUB AMERICA (no change)
America ended its game against Xolos with Henry Martin, Oribe Peralta, Cecilio Dominguez and Jeremy Menez all on the field but still couldn't score a single goal. Gibran Lajud's heroics frustrated America's attackers. Nevertheless, Las Aguilas will head into next weekend's Clasico Nacional as the only unbeaten Liga MX side in the Clausura.

2. TIGRES UANL  (+1)
Andre-Pierre Gignac has already scored six goals this season, the same amount of goals he got last year in regular and postseason play. It's looking like this season Gignac will finish with 12-plus goals, which should increase Tigres' chances of winning both the league and CONCACAF Champions League.

After nine weeks of play, Santos is consolidating into one of the best sides in the Clausura. Led by an inspired Djaniny Tavares, Los Guerreros are linking all the pieces together to make a deep run this season.

4. PUMAS UNAM (-2)
Pumas are no longer on fire as they were at the start of the season. The intrepid play that was seen in their 2-1 victory over Tigres doesn't come out as often. Teams are finding their weaknesses but Pumas aren't relenting, and they've been picking up points even when giving lackluster performances, as was the case in the 1-1 tie against Chivas.

After its 3-0 loss to Necaxa, Monterrey was desperate to get back on track. In its visit to Atlas, Monterrey didn't go all-out but did enough to get a 1-0 win, thanks to Nicolas Sanchez's penalty shot.

6. TOLUCA (+3)
Toluca got an important 2-0 win in its visit to Queretaro. However, it must be noted that before Toluca's visit, Queretaro hadn't achieved a single home win. Even a weak side like Veracruz has won at Queretaro's place but Toluca is now on a current two-game winning streak. Next up is a game against Pumas at Ciudad Universitaria.

After nine games, Xolos have played five away matches and they have gone scoreless in all of them. Yes, they've only conceded two in the process, but their firepower upfront is almost nonexistent.

8. PUEBLA  (no change)
On Friday, Puebla almost got a 1-0 win over Necaxa but in the game's final minutes Necaxa managed to get a 1-1 draw. Puebla's excellent home-game winning streak ends but its place in the table continues to be solid.

9. NECAXA (+1)
Martin Barragan has scored twice this season and both goals have come in Necaxa's last two away games, which coincidentally finished 1-1. If Barragan hadn't scored in the last two away games, Necaxa might have gone without a single point.

10. PACHUCA (+1)
Sebastian Palacios got his first Liga MX goal and in doing so helped Pachuca get a 2-1 win over Leon. Keisuke Honda also got a goal and now has four goals and four assists this season. Quietly, Honda is having a consistent and impeccable Clausura.

11. MORELIA (-4)
This season Morelia has suffered four defeats. Its recent one was against Tigres at El Volcan but it also got away defeats at America and Santos Laguna. Morelia still has a good chance of reaching the Liguilla but hardly any chance of fighting for the title.

12. LEON (no change)
The woes for Leon continue. It's crazy to think that in such short time, Leon went from a league protagonist to a team in dire need of help and unable to put a good streak together. Of its last seven games, it has only won once.

13. CRUZ AZUL (no change)
The start of the Clausura has posed a series of question in relation to Cruz Azul's current form. Is it a curse? Is it Pedro Caixinha's poor way of transmitting his ideas and philosophy to the roster? Will the bad state ever end? If it doesn't end, will Caixinha remain the entire season as Cruz Azul's manager?

14. QUERETARO  (no change)
Queretaro's 2-0 loss to Toluca cut a good three-game unbeaten streak it had built. Up next is a difficult schedule that includes games against Cruz Azul, Necaxa and Monterrey.

15. VERACRUZ (no change)
The 5-0 hammering Veracruz suffered last Saturday against Lobos was the team's worst loss of the season. Most of Veracruz's defeats this season had been by at most a single goal, so to lose that heavily to a club stuck in the relegation race was an extreme blow to its salvation hopes.

16. LOBOS BUAP (+1)
Lobos' imposing 5-0 win over Veracruz was the type of win Rafael Puente del Rio needed in order to continue on with the Lobos project. As a result of the win over Veracruz, Lobos inch closer towards staying in the first division.

 17. CHIVAS (-1)
Chivas' spirit is at all-time low. Matias Almeyda's men have only won once in their last nine league games and only once in their last 13 home games. The situation is critical and there's no sign of improvements.

18. ATLAS (no change)
Against Monterrey, Rafael Marquez started his fifth game of the current season. His performance was a precise illustration of his current form, as he committed two penalties and was sent off near the end of the match.

Nayib Moran covers Liga MX and the Mexican national team for ESPN FC. Twitter: @nayibmoran.


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