Full-back Ivan Franjic believes the signs are there that his Melbourne City are primed to "start punishing teams" as they aim to overtake Melbourne Victory for an all-important top-two finish in the Hyundai A-League.
City have slumped to fourth in the table after last week's 2-1 loss at Newcastle Jets and have only won two of nine matches since they claimed the Westfield FFA Cup in November.
But ahead of Saturday night's derby against Melbourne Victory, City remain confident they can challenge for the A-League title in 2016/17, as they enter a vital month where they will face the current top three in the space of four games.
No team has ever won the Hyundai A-League grand final after finishing lower than second in the regular season.
"We want to finish top-two and Victory's standing in our way at the moment," Caltex Socceroo Franjic said on Thursday.
"We haven't been on the greatest run at times and no better way to get back into it than winning the derby this week."
Franjic added: "If we get three points [in the derby], obviously we're three points closer to second place."
City (26 points) are six points adrift of second-placed Victory, while leaders Sydney FC (43) and third-placed Brisbane Roar (27) are also ahead of Franjic and Co.
Following the derby at Etihad Stadium, City will host Roar on February 11 and welcome Sydney to Melbourne a fortnight later.
There is a belief at City that their current struggles are due to opposition teams defending deep against them, with the Jets expertly punishing Michael Valkanis' side twice on the counterattack last week.
No team has passed the ball more than City in 2016/17, while they also have the best passing accuracy in the A-League, and Franjic is convinced the Bundoora-based club are on the verge of returning to top form.
"You look over the last few weeks we have been dominating games but we're just not scoring. The chances are there," Franjic said.
"It's just a matter of time before it starts turning and we do start punishing teams."
City started the season in blistering fashion, crushing Victory 4-1 in Round 2 with arguably the best performance of any club of the campaign before going on to lift their first piece of silverware - the Westfield FFA Cup.