Victory at ease despite losses: Leijer
Defender Adrian Leijer says Melbourne Victory aren't ready to panic despite a shocking run over the past week, conceding six goals in two defeats.
On top of the losses, the Victory head into Saturday night's grand final re-match against Sydney FC without inspirational skipper Kevin Muscat, who was red-carded last weekend against Adelaide United.
Leijer says senior players must lift in the absence of Muscat and strikers Archie Thompson, who has a hamstring injury, and Robbie Kruse, who is on Socceroos duty.
Despite the team feeling "flat" last week - when they lost 4-1 to Adelaide United and 2-0 to Wellington Phoenix - Leijer says the Victory are set to rebound against the ninth-placed Sky Blues.
And he says striker Danny Allsopp, who made his comeback to the A-League last week after more than a year playing in Qatar and the USA, could be just the man to spark the fifth-placed Victory's run to the finals.
"The first year we won it (in 2006-07) we got beaten 4-0 in the last round of the A-League so it's not time to panic or anything like that," Leijer told reporters on Wednesday.
"It (a top-six finish) is never a given. We had confidence because we had seven games unbeaten.
"That's what we have to get back to. We have to remember the things that got us to where we were at that stage.
"We've had two disappointing results.
"But that gives you a good opportunity to look at where things are going wrong and really make sure come finals time those things are out the door and you're hitting your straps."
Leijer says the Victory have to defend better as a unit.
"In the last two games we've been flat," said Leijer, who has declared himself fit despite missing the second half against Adelaide with a groin complaint.
"With the week off now just to freshen up, with no mid-week game it makes it a lot easier.
"It's an important run of (six) games into the finals and we need to make sure that we secure our place in the top six.
"Melbourne-Sydney games are always big, no matter where they are on the table or where we are.
"We are ready for it and I'm sure we'll come out again on the weekend and put in a good performance."
Leijer has sympathy for Allsopp, 32, in his bid to make a strong return to the A-League.
"It is tough and I know exactly what it's like. I came back from overseas," said Leijer, who was released by Fulham early last season.
"It's kind of a strange feeling. In the first few games you're not really sure where your home is and what's going on.
"Danny did well for us on the weekend but he's got a lot of improving in him and he'll get a lot more match-fit and used to playing our style again."
The Victory are likely to regain attacking midfielder Tom Pondeljak from injury this week.