With the 2018-19 Liga MX Apertura just past the midway point, the race to solidify a playoff position is set to heat up. Just eight points separate first place Cruz Azul and 13th place Tijuana, so it is sure to be another sprint to the finish in Mexico. Here are three things our Liga MX correspondents are watching for from the league this weekend.
Monterrey rivals battle in the Clasico Regio
The Clasico Regio headlines this weekend's games in Liga MX, with Tigres hosting Monterrey in the 117th edition of a derby that pits two teams with serious 2018 Apertura title ambitions against one another.
Cruz Azul's rise and the positive start to the season from fellow Mexico City clubs America and Pumas may have captured column inches so far this season, but the two Monterrey teams still take some beating when it comes to sheer quality, and this game is arguably Mexico's most intense derby at the moment.
Tigres sit one place behind Monterrey in seventh and just two points off their rival, but go into the Clasico as favorites at home, having been boosted by winning the inaugural Campeones Cup in Toronto on Wednesday.
Tigres also already won the battle of when the Clasico Regio should be played, with Monterrey not wanting to move the date from Saturday to Sunday to help Tigres' scheduling after their long trip north to Canada. In the end, Liga MX dictated that the game would in fact be moved to Sunday.
To make matters worse for Rayados, injuries have hampered preparation for the big game. Forward Aviles Hurtado misses out and Uruguay international Jonathan Urretaviscaya is unlikely to feature for Diego Alonso's team, who lost 4-2 at home to Chivas last Saturday.
Monterrey may be above Tigres in the table, but there is an underlying feeling that things haven't clicked so far under Alonso, as the former Pachuca coach adapts the team to a more possession-based ideology than that of previous coach Antonio Mohamed.
For Tigres, there have been ups and downs and coach Ricardo Ferretti would obviously like the side to be higher than seventh, but the experienced group will be prepared for the Clasico and you basically know what you are getting with Tigres under the Brazilian.
Tigres fans are being asked to bring yellow flags and the atmosphere in Estadio Universitario, as usual, will be immense. -- Tom Marshall
Are Chivas, Queretaro true playoff contenders?
At the moment, it would be difficult to find very many Chivas fans who are feeling confident about their ninth-place team. Although the Guadalajara side has gradually resolved serious problems that tarnished the start of the season, a 3-1 loss to Pachuca earlier this month again highlighted Chivas' issue with maintaining positive momentum.
The same could be said for Queretaro, who is currently sitting in eighth place. Despite the fact Los Gallos Blancos are in playoff position, worries began to emerge from the fan base after the team stumbled to an embarrassing 1-0 loss at home to Puebla last week. Following the defeat, Queretaro's spot in the playoff zone appears tenuous, with five teams trailing by two points or fewer.
Both sides still have an immense amount of work to do before securing a liguilla spot, and although each team is in a decent position at midtable, three points on Sunday would do plenty to move the winner a step closer to the playoffs.
A victory would also help to avoid a potentially scary drop down the table. With only a three-point difference between seventh place and 14th place, there will be little room for mistakes. -- Cesar Hernandez
Ascendant Puebla takes on Club America
There are just four points separating Puebla from Club America in the Liga MX league table. It's always amazing to think about how parity impacts this league more than most around the world. If we had to bet, most would still assume America ends the season in a better position than Puebla, but it's still difficult to predict anything in Mexico.
This is why it's so intriguing to gauge this game from the outside: Puebla has grabbed 10 out of its past 15 points, while Club America has picked up eight. Both are coming off back-to-back victories. Both have coaches have something to prove: Miguel Herrera is still eyeing the national team vacancy and a deep playoff run would boost his chances, while Enrique Meza wants to prove last season's strong start was no fluke. Finally, the spotlight will be on Diego Lainez, who was injured this week in practice and has still not been declared out by Herrera.
With Club America within a shout of grabbing the league's highest spot, and Puebla looking to launch itself up into playoff position, this game has the potential to be one of the best in Liga MX this weekend among a good slate of matches. -- Eric Gomez