3 things we learned in the first matches of Matchday 17

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Erick Sanchez celebrates after scoring Pachuca’s third goal in San Luis on Thursday night. (Photo by Leopoldo Smith / Getty Images)

We’re three games into the last Liga MX weekend of the regular season and there are now eight teams locked down for the playoffs. That leaves seven clubs scrambling for the remaining four wildcard spots.

The Thursday and Friday night fixtures resolved a few issues (Pachuca and Atlas won playoff invitations and the “relegation standings” have been settled), but Saturday’s schedule will be much more tidy.

Sunday’s two Liga MX matches will complete the picture (Puebla visits Santos in a game to decide who claims the final bye of the first round).

But before we get too deep into the math, here’s what we’ve learned so far:

1. Pachuca achieves impressive turnaround to reach Liga MX qualifying

The past two months suggest Pachuca will be tough in the playoffs as the Tuzos stormed the straight in a 6-1-1 run.

The products of the Roberto de la Rosa and Erick Sánchez Academy led the team to a 5-1 rout of Atlético de San Luis, each marking a hug. The result brought the club’s goal differential to +1, giving the Tuzos an advantage if Saturday night’s Chivas-Tigres game ended in a draw.

Congratulations to the management of Pachuca who, despite the team leaving 0-4-5, stuck with Paulo Pezzolano (hardly, that’s true). But it paid off as the Uruguayan coach was rewarded for trusting the youngsters on the list.

2. Atlas breathes easier after saving 50 million pesos

The Zorros not only qualified for the La Liga MX qualifiers for the first time since the 2017 Apertura season, they avoided having to pay a ‘relegation’ payment of 120 million pesos.

Atlas celebrated the latter by crush last place Necaxa 5-1, a result that guarantees they will host a generic match next weekend.

“Los Rojinegros” They knew before taking the field Friday night that they had escaped the basement of La Liga MX “Relegation Standings” thanks to the loss of Atlético de San Luis to Pachuca. This meant that Atlas would have to pay “only” 70 million pesos to finish second to last (the Tuneros have to pay more than 120 million pesos).

In addition to saving a lot of money, the Zorros were also eligible to claim a playoff spot as La Liga MX rules prohibit the team from finishing last in the ‘relegation standings’ (a calculation based on performance of each club over the past three seasons) to advance to the playoffs.

3. Which Diablos Rojos team will make the playoffs?

Toluca continued his season of ups and downs with a Shocking 1-0 road loss in Cd. Juárez.

The Diablos Rojos had just won a splendid 3-1 victory against America to turn against the humble Bravos.

The victory over No.2 seed Aguilas had ended a 6-game winless streak that saw “Los Choriceros” drop from third to eighth place in the Liga MX table.

Friday night’s setback means the Diablos Rojos didn’t mathematically secure a playoff spot, but the odds of being denied a wildcard spot are minimal (Tijuana has to beat No.1 favorite Cruz Azul at the Estadio Azteca by 4 goals).

Toluca now has to reckon with the fact that they have to win a wildcard game on the road to reach the Liguilla and the Diablos are 1-2-5 away from home. The club’s 6-4-7 record is a poor result after a 4-1-1 start.

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