Western United's three-game road trip in seven days epitomises an A-League where the race to secure a finals spot is turning into a survival of the fittest.
The A-League's race to the finals is turning into a survival of the fittest as teams battle gruelling fixture schedules amid a condensed ladder.
Just nine points separate league-leading Melbourne City from ninth-placed Wellington Phoenix with teams having between six to nine games left in their campaigns.
Due to a mixture of COVID-related alterations, several teams in the hunt for a top six finish are facing runs of games which will test their depth and fitness.
Sixth-place Western United begin a run of three games in seven days on Wednesday against eighth-place Brisbane Roar which are all on the road and will require travel to three different states.
Western coach Mark Rudan has labelled the stretch, which also includes last Friday's 0-0 draw in Adelaide as a "Contiki tour".
While Rudan refused to label the upcoming week as season-defining, he acknowledged whoever handles the demands of the final weeks of the regular season best will be the ones to emerge inside the top six.
"It's absolutely the way it is and now with a lot of games in a short period of time, it'll test those teams even more," Rudan said.
"The small details are always important and that's what you've got to get right. We certainly work hard on the small details.
"Anything could happen in this league as well ... certainly we haven't spoken about any game other than Brisbane. We don't look too far ahead."
Western will have to find a replacement for Victor Sanchez against the Roar after the Spanish midfielder was controversially sent off against the Reds, with Luke Duzel, Steven Lustica and Sebastian Pasquali named by Rudan as potential replacements.
Brisbane's draw with Wellington last Saturday was overshadowed by a waterlogged pitch labelled "terrible" by Phoenix coach Ufuk Talay but Rudan said his team will handle whatever conditions they encounter at Moreton Daily Stadium.
"Brisbane want to play. We want to play. The pitch is going to be what it is and good players will deal with that," he said.
"I did watch (Saturday's) game and it was tough for both sides but I thought both teams put on a good show considering.
"It's not something that we're going to use as an excuse ... if the pitch is great, great. If it's not ... we just have to deal with it."