Victory still believe in finals hopes
As questions remain over the age and quality of Melbourne Victory's squad, skipper Adrian Leijer remains confident his team is just a winning run away from being A-League finals contenders.
The Victory remain just one win outside the top six despite being winless in five matches under new coach Jim Magilton.
And their inability to hold a lead, regular send-offs and the merits or otherwise of their football quality remain talking points - with no discernible change from previous coach Mehmet Durakovic's reign.
But the competition's closeness means the Victory remain a reasonable chance of a top six spot - especially if they can negotiate their next two matches.
Friday night's home clash with league leaders Central Coast Mariners is followed by a trip to second-placed Brisbane Roar.
They then play bottom side Gold Coast, before matches against their nearest rivals for a top six spot - Newcastle Jets and Sydney FC - which should decide their season.
"In a season it's important to get off to a good start, or to get a good run of consecutive wins, and we haven't been able to do that this season," Leijer said.
"Without that, I suppose confidence drops. But we've got to get ourselves out of this and we still believe within the group we've got seven games, and we can get in that top six.
"The best thing about this competition is you're in that top six and you can have a crack, and who knows what can happen?"
Victory's older players have found themselves under fire - and struggling to get into the starting side - as Magilton shuffles the decks.
Centre-half Rodrigo Vargas' place has already been usurped by Mark Milligan's arrival, with Spanish centre-back Ubay Lazardo's impending signing also moving Vargas further down the pecking order.
Carlos Hernandez has started the last two matches on the bench.
And veteran midfielder Grant Brebner's send-off in last weekend's 0-0 draw with Melbourne Heart for a rash tackle - the seventh red card for the club this season - means he is automatically banned for the Central Coast match.
Magilton believes his side has improved since a recent 4-1 shellacking by Perth Glory, and confidence is the key to winning.
Leijer agrees, pointing to a 15 to 20-minute patch against Heart as proof his side is capable of matching strides with the competition's best.
"It hasn't been an easy season and I suppose the hardest thing ... is to pick ourselves up and get that confidence back," he said.
"We've been saying for a while a win would turn things around and the last three games or so we should have had a win.
"Without that, the pressure builds."