Durante: Next three games vital
Wellington Phoenix captain Andrew Durante feels his side need to take seven points from their next three games to make the A-League finals.
The Phoenix are languishing at the bottom of the table with a five-win, five-draw and 11-loss record, but are just six points off sixth-placed Newcastle who they play next Wednesday night.
The match is one of three in a seven-day period, starting with Adelaide United on Sunday and finishing with Melbourne Heart the following weekend.
All the matches are home fixtures although the Heart game will be played in Dunedin's Forsyth Barr Stadium.
"It's a big week and if we want to be serious about going into these playoffs really it's got to be at least seven to nine points," said the skipper.
"It's a big one against Adelaide. They are a good team. They are sitting fourth. They've been up there for quite a while. It's going to be a good test. This will see if we want it or not."
Adelaide's away record has not been good this season with six defeats on the road.
Wellington has not been a happy hunting ground for the South Australian side either as they haven't won there in their last five visits, something Durante said his players could take heart from.
"We're back at home now and it's just got to be a good performance and three points," he added.
"There's always the talk of must-win situations and there are only six games left so we're kind of getting to that stage. I think we all realise that."
The centre-back is also expecting the Reds' striker Jeronimo Neumann, who is yet to score a goal away from home this season, to get a hostile reception from the Phoenix's Yellow Fever fan base.
Neumann was embroiled in a diving controversy in the round-four fixture between the two sides and this will be his first trip to Wellington since then, although the two teams also played each other in December.
But Durante didn't expect the early season incident to cause any added niggle between the teams on Sunday.
"I think there will be niggle because of the closeness of the end of the season and everyone is desperate for points," he said.
"I don't think the Jeronimo thing will add any extra incentive for the players to go out there and try and win the game.
"It's three points up for grabs and both teams are extremely desperate for them."
The Phoenix's battles have been well documented. They have struggled to score goals and their defence has leaked badly as the players' confidence ebbed away when they tried to implement a more passing/possession-based style of football.
Durante has gone for advice outside of football in a bid to help his team stop the rot, talking to a Wellington cricketer earlier in the season when the Phoenix first started dropping points.
"It's always good to speak to people outside of your own situation and see how they got through their problems," he said, before joking: "It hasn't really worked has it?
"You've got to take some of their stories about how they got out of it and try and apply it here.
"It's all about motivation. We're at the stage where it's not really ability that's getting us in to trouble. It's more of a mental thing and that's a really hard thing to imprint on people's behaviour their mental side of it.
"You can teach them all the skills and drills you want but mentally it's almost up to the individual to see how they react. I think that's probably been the major issue this year."