Injuries and suspensions have had an impact on Melbourne Victory's ability to maintain their challenge for top spot in the A-League says head coach Kevin Muscat.
The defending champions are four points behind second-placed Sydney FC with six games to go, while the gap to leaders Perth Glory is now up to 10 points.
Their prospects of catching Tony Popovic's side took a big hit at the weekend when they lost 2-0 to Newcastle Jets, while Perth came from 2-0 down to earn a point at Melbourne City.
Victory, who have taken only two points from a possible 12, now also have to contend with playing their remaining A-League games alongside their Asian Champions League campaign.
Muscat is not conceding the Premiers' Plate to Perth or the Sky Blues, but admits Victory have been hard-pressed to maintain their form while they have had key players out.
Exciting winger Elvis Kamsoba is the latest to be ruled out, with scans on Friday revealing he has medial ligament damage and is likely to be out for two to three weeks.
Key striker Ola Toivonen was missing against Newcastle as he was still battling to recover from illness, though he is expected to be fit to face Korean club Daegu in Tuesday's first-up ACL clash.
"It's what has been happening all season. We have been consistently inconsistent with our line-ups with players injured, sick or suspended," said Muscat. "It certainly doesn't help build certainty, but the players have done well to hang in all season long.''
The coach felt his team had been unlucky to lose to the Jets, as they had created a lot of chances but not taken them.
"We got caught out by a sucker punch goal and although Dimi Petratos' shot was a great drive, it came in the last minutes when we realised that we weren't going to get anything out of the game," said Muscat.
''It was just one of those nights when you had a lot of the ball and got nothing. It's frustrating, but we now have to pick the bones from it and move on.''
Victory are 3/1 to win the Grand Final, with the Glory 13/8 and Sydney FC 5/2.
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