Slipping to eighth spot after back-to-back losses and with clashes against the top three sides to come, Sydney FC face one almighty battle to secure an A-League finals spot.
The "dogfight" for a playoff berth, as Sydney coach Frank Farina recently put it, gets brutal this week when the Sky Blues host the formidable second-placed Central Coast at Allianz Stadium on Saturday.
They then meet third-placed Melbourne Victory next week before facing their biggest test in rampant leaders Western Sydney in front of their vocal home crowd the week after with a desperate Brisbane side waiting in the final round.
But a resolute Farina, whose side are currently just a point outside the top six, is determined to guide the two-time championship-winning club to their sixth finals campaign.
"We do still have a chance and if we get there then we're going to deserve it. But that's the way it should be," he said.
"We're playing the top three sides ... so for us to make the six we're going to have to really earn it and the players realise that."
The last time Sydney played the Mariners in round 13 they posted a shock 1-0 win over the then leaders and Farina is confident of a repeat performance on Saturday.
Also working in the Sky Blues' favour is their recent form at Allianz Stadium where they've won their five past matches.
"The pleasing thing from that last game is that it showed we can beat them (Mariners) even though they've been superb this year and we've been very much on the other end of the scale," Farina said.
It was a Brett Emerton's goal in the dying minutes that sunk the Mariners that day.
The veteran midfielder has copped criticism for his current form-slump with former Socceroo Mark Bosnich saying last week he should be dropped from the side.
But Farina is adamant Emerton remains a key part of the team.
"No one was spruiking too much when Brett scores the winner against the Central Coast in the 90th minute, when he scores the equaliser against Melbourne Heart in the 89th minute, he sets up a goal in Perth when we drew 2-2," Farina said.
"Brett, by his own admission, probably feels he can do more.
"Everyone has a right to an opinion but the only opinion that counts in this team in the 11 that go in the park is mine and Brett will play on Saturday."
The Sky Blues will be without injured Socceroo skipper Lucas Neill (calf) with Brazilian Tiago Calvano and Adam Griffiths likely to partner in the centre of defence in his absence.
Left-back Fabio's suspension meanwhile means utility Rhyan Grant looks set to take his spot.