Melbourne Victory could lose Saturday's derby against Melbourne City and still win the Hyundai A-League's Premier's Plate, according to coach Kevin Muscat.
With Victory and City level on 28 points heading into their blockbuster clash at AAMI Park.
Any loser is likely to end the weekend nine points adrift of Western Sydney Wanderers and Brisbane Roar, who face clubs in the bottom three this round.
The potential difficulty of reeling in a nine-point gap over the eight remaining rounds prompted City wing-back Michael Zullo to claim this week's derby "can go a long way to defining the rest of the season".
But speaking on Wednesday, Muscat insisted Victory's "destiny" will still be under their control even if they lose to City.
The 42-year-old arguing the 2015-16 A-League campaign is the "closest one that I can remember".
The reigning champions have five home games in the final eight rounds, where they will host fellow top-six sides Adelaide United, Sydney FC, the Wanderers and Brisbane.
"It will be difficult from there [9 points behind] with the number of games remaining but there's still a lot of football to be played," Muscat told reporters.
"Two or three results go your way and you're playing the teams in and around you, and most of our games remaining are teams in and around us here in Melbourne, so our destiny's still in our hands."
Victory will also play bottom-three clubs Central Coast Mariners, Wellington Phoenix and Newcastle Jets in their run home, while they will have two opportunities to reel in the second-placed Roar.
Muscat's men will travel to Brisbane on March 12 and host the Queenslanders in the final round of the season.
Looking ahead to the derby, Muscat declared Gui Finkler, Matthieu Delpierre and Archie Thompson are all fit after facing various fitness issues over the past week.
Thompson limped out of training before last week's 1-1 draw with Western Sydney Wanderers and missed the match.
Delpierre suffered what looked to be a dreadful knee injury just before half-time, only to complete the second half at Etihad Stadium with heavy strapping.
Finkler played 62 minutes but still looks to be struggling with a calf injury that saw him miss a couple of matches earlier in the campaign.
"All have a clean bill of health," Muscat said.
"They'll be expected to train [Thursday] and on Friday, and be available for selection, so some good news on that front."
Victory won the first Melbourne derby of the season 3-2 at Etihad Stadium, while City triumphed in December 2-1 at AAMI Park.