Perth Glory could receive a boost this week in their ambitious bid to qualify for the finals, with captain Jacob Burns on the verge of returning for the game against Sydney FC at nib Stadium on Saturday.
Burns has missed five games with a back problem but showed signs of improvement last week, increasing his workload at training.
The influential midfielder would be a welcome inclusion for interim coach Alistair Edwards, who suff- ered his first defeat in charge of Glory in Saturday's 1-0 loss to in-form Western Sydney Wanderers at Parramatta Stadium.
The win was Wanderers' seventh in a row and the fledgling club is keeping pace with Central Coast at the top of the table.
At the other end, Glory sit second from bottom and five points outside the top six.
Time is running out for Glory to make a run at the finals, but the return of Burns would enhance their chances.
"He's almost OK and he did a few decent sessions last week," Edwards said.
"We're hoping that the worst is over. He's had some really good expert advice.
"Our physio department has worked really well on him and Jacob himself thinks that he's going to be OK.
"It's going to be great because it will add another dimension to the team. He's a very experienced guy and we've got a very good squad and it will be great to have him back."
Burns has played a mentoring role for some of the club's younger players over the past month.
"Jacob has been a thorough professional," Edwards said. "He's always at the training sessions and he's always watching everything we do and discussing things in between the little segments. He's a great clubman."
Edwards led Glory to a shock victory in his first game in charge against Central Coast, but couldn't inspire his side to a second.
Aaron Mooy scored the only goal with a deflected shot in the 58th minute.
Michael Thwaite attempted to block Mooy's shot after his Socceroos teammate produced some good build-up play with Mark Bridge, but only managed to divert the ball past helpless goalkeeper Danny Vukovic.
After Sydney, the Glory have games against Newcastle and last-placed Wellington.
"We've got a good bunch of players in that squad and we're not going to give up (on the finals) until it's mathematically impossible for us to get in there," Edwards said.