With six rounds to go in the Hyundai A-League 2016/17 Season, five teams appear set for Finals Series football - but sixth is a whole different scenario, setting up a riveting chase for six.
These are the competition’s current top five and appear assured of Finals Series football, with Sydney FC confirmed as finishing in the top two and qualifying for the ACL after they racked up 50 points on the weekend.
1. Sydney FC
2. Melbourne Victory
3. Perth Glory
4. Melbourne City
5. Brisbane Roar
The chase for sixth spot
This is set to go down the wire with an absolutely intriguing final six rounds as four clubs fight for that last spot.
Only four points separate Western Sydney Wanderers (24 pts) in sixth to Central Coast Mariners (20 pts) in ninth.
While it’s not mathematically impossible, champions Adelaide United (14 pts) are a long shot to make it and are realistically out of the running particularly as they are in the ACL.
We take a look at the remaining fixtures for all the contenders to see who's in the box seat to secure that final position and play finals football.
Whatever happens, it’s going to a riveting final six weeks of the regular season.
Western Sydney Wanderers (6th) – Points 24, GD -7
To Play: Adelaide (home), Phoenix (home), City (home), Jets (away), Victory (home), Adelaide (away)
Wanderers are currently in pole position with a precious two-point advantage from the chasing pack.
But inconsistent performances – a Derby win one week followed by a meek surrender against Perth the next – means it’s hard to know exactly what Tony Popovic’s men will dish up each week.
Their exertions in the ACL as well won’t help their cause, with their squad really not strong enough right now to easily juggle both competitions.
Despite their woeful record at Spotless, they will see this weekend’s home clash against the lowly Reds as a must-get three points. But upcoming matches against fellow top-six hopefuls Wellington and Newcastle – either side of a clash with Melbourne City – is likely to decide their fate.
Newcastle Jets (7th) – Points 22, GD -7
To Play: Roar (home), City (away), Phoenix (away), Wanderers (home), Mariners (away), Sydney (away)
It’s been seven years since the Jets played in the finals and Mark Jones’ side are going to have to do it the hard way if they are to end that streak.
Following this weekend’s clash with Brisbane in the Hunter, the Jets play four of their last five games away from home. But at least their destiny is in their own hands.
Newcastle’s defining fortnight comes in mid-March where they follow up a trip to Wellington Phoenix with a home clash against the Wanderers in Round 25.
If the current gap still remains going into that one, it will be a raucous atmosphere at McDonald Jones Stadium.
And they won’t want to leave it until the end to book their spot, with a final round trip to play runaway leaders Sydney FC, who they haven’t beaten since December 2012, a string of 12 straight games.
Wellington Phoenix (8th) – Points 22, GD -10
To Play: Glory (home), Wanderers (away), Jets (home), Victory (away), Sydney (home), Roar (away)
What a difference a win can make.
This time last week and Phoenix looked long odds to win another game this season let-alone make the finals. But a shock win in Brisbane and all of a sudden the ‘Nix are back in the hunt.
The key contenders for sixth spot all play each other, meaning Wellington has control over where they will finish.
The worry for coaches Des Buckingham and Chris Greenacre will come in a few weeks when they lose a host of players – possibly as many as 12 - on international duty, including leading scorer Roy Krishna.
The next three games will decide Wellington’s fate.
Central Coast Mariners (9th) – Points 20, GD -15
To Play: City (home), Sydney (away), Adelaide (home), Roar (away), Jets (home), Victory (away)
Paul Okon’s side have the most work to do to sneak in to the six and – unfortunately for them – the trickiest run home of the other contenders.
With a four-point deficit and far inferior goal difference, the Mariners will need to win at least four of the last six to make it.
A difficult scenario when you consider they go away to play Sydney FC, Brisbane Roar and Melbourne Victory.
They’ll need to win all of their home matches – including a round 26 F3 Derby – to have any hope of pulling off an Okon miracle.