A-League leaders Melbourne Victory can consolidate top spot when they host cellar-dwellers Newcastle Jets on Friday.
Just three points separates Kevin Muscat’s men (44 points) from fifth-placed Sydney FC, with the top-two spots coveted given they get a home semi-final.
Victory midfielder Carl Valeri sounded a warning to their rivals on Wednesday, claiming his side – who sit top on goal differential from Perth Glory – have room to improve.
“I’d love to say that Kevin was 100 per cent satisfied but being a good coach he always finds areas that we can work on,” Valeri said.
“I think in any good team environment – no matter the last result – there’s always room for improvement.
“That’s what’s great about this club.
“We want to build on what we did against Wellington [where they won 3-0]. There are definitely areas we can work on and improve and maybe get more consistent in others.”
Victory have lost just three times in 23. Conversely, the Jets have won two of 24 games in a calamitous season for the New South Wales coastal club.
Jets coach Phil Stubbins has been forced to defend his position but claimed Newcastle were still heading in the right direction after a 2-0 loss to visitors Perth on Monday.
“We are rebuilding the club… we’re trying to do everything we can behind the scenes to build the club and hopefully this time next year we’re in a very strong position,” Stubbins said following their 14th loss of the season.
The Jets have a good record against Muscat’s men, however, with Victory breaking a four-match winless streak against the Jets in December via a 1-0 win at AAMI Park.
Victory needed an 85th-minute winner from Gui Finkler to see off the pesky Jets, who they had most recently beaten in December 2013.
Also on Friday, Perth host Sydney (41 points) in a key fixture in terms of the top two.
A Sydney win would send them above the Glory on goal difference through 25 games but Graham Arnold’s men will likely be facing an elimination final if they loss at nib Stadium.
Adelaide United welcome Brisbane Roar to Coopers Stadium on Saturday, with the latter clinging desperately to hope of a finals berth.
United, meanwhile, are on 43 points, and still eyeing off the top two.
Central Coast Mariners (20 points) host Western Sydney Wanderers (15) later on Saturday night, with both sides aiming to stay above the Jets (14) to avoid the dreaded wooden spoon.
On Sunday, sixth-placed Melbourne City will look to deliver a near-fatal blow to Brisbane’s finals hopes – and secure their own place in the finals – when they host a slumping Wellington Phoenix.
Wellington were top of the league in March but consecutive losses has seen them slip to fourth place on 42 points.
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