Race to the Finals Series: How your club is poised ahead of the run home

The final third of the Hyundai A-League season is upon us and that means the race for Finals Series places is coming into sharper focus.

While the top three is clearly defined, the Premiers Plate, sixth spot and valuable hosting rights remain in varying degrees of dispute.

So too does the wooden spoon, ensuring there is plenty to play for at both ends of the table heading into Round 19.

Here, we take stock of where each of the 10 clubs sit, reflect on their status compared to last season and look at what's at stake.

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1. Perth Glory (43 points)

The objective is pure and simple for Perth Glory: win the Premiers Plate.

The Western Australian outfit is yet to win a trophy in the Hyundai A-League era; ending that drought would instil real confidence leading into a Finals Series that promises plenty.

Tony Popovic's men have been top of the table since Round 4 and cemented their status as the team to beat with a measured 2-1 win over title rivals Melbourne Victory last weekend.

Good luck stopping them.

2017/18: 8th (19 points)

Tony Popovic

2. Melbourne Victory (36 points)

Having slipped seven points off the pace, Victory's most elementary task is to keep Perth honest in the run home.

The long-awaited return of Keisuke Honda from injury should ensure a first defeat in six represents nothing more than a hiccup, although regaining Ola Toivonen is of paramount importance.

Can they still catch Glory?

Winning at HBF Park on March 30 is essential.

2017/18: 4th (26 points)

3. Sydney FC (35 points)

Still very much in the hunt for second.

The 2-1 loss to Melbourne Victory on Australia Day and bitter late collapse against Brisbane Roar that followed two rounds later have punctured Sydney FC's hopes of retaining the Premiers Plate but they can still be confident of pipping their Big Blue rivals to the runners-up spot and automatic AFC Champions League qualification.

That would be no small feat for rookie coach Steve Corica and a team that has battled injuries.

These next nine rounds will be particularly useful for integrating January arrivals Anthony Caceres, Reza Ghoochannejhad and Mitch Austin ahead of the post-season.

2017/18: 1st (43 points)

Adam Le Fondre

4. Adelaide United (30 points)

Adelaide United are sneaking into top three calculations.

Along with Perth, they are one of only two sides not to have incurred a loss in any of their past five fixtures.

The Reds now sit safely inside the Finals Series places and can zero in on securing hosting rights for an Elimination Final.

Giving new signing Jordy Thomassen time to find his feet could help this team go to the next level.

2017/18: 5th (25 points)

5. Melbourne City (28 points)

Drawing at home to Adelaide last time out was not an ideal result for a side that has two points to make up on their closest rivals for fourth.

Jamie Maclaren's debut goal was an undoubted positive but Melbourne City were left with no wins from any of their last three matches and just one from six.

Priority number one for Warren Joyce must be to build some winning momentum capable of carrying them to a home Elimination Final.

For comparison, City had two fewer points at this stage in 2016/17, when they went on to beat Perth to fourth spot on goal difference.

2017/18: 3rd (30 points)

6. Wellington Phoenix (27 points)

Like City, Wellington Phoenix have their eyes on a home Elimination Final.

That alone is exceptional progress considering they were rock bottom at this time last term, although Mark Rudan is unlikely to be satisfied.

Even if Wellington haven't contested a knockout match since 2015, their demanding coach will be intent on recapturing the impressive form of December and January to set the platform for a run towards the top four.

A team with designs on making a post-season impact should realistically have few worries in sewing up a Finals Series berth from here.

2017/18: 10th (14 points)

Mark Rudan

7. Newcastle Jets (19 points)

They've won three and lost only one of their past five matches in all competitions, but can Newcastle Jets catch the sixth-placed Phoenix?

Last season's beaten Grand Finalists have struggled to rediscover their fluent best amid a stuttering campaign and now their fight to feature in the Finals Series looks set to unfold as one of the most fascinating plot lines of the next nine rounds.

Five of their remaining matches are scheduled for McDonald Jones Stadium, while the March 30 trip across the Tasman is sure to be circled in Ernie Merrick's calendar.

2017/18: 2nd (34 points)

8. Western Sydney Wanderers (13 points)

Markus Babbel appears to have made his plans clear by introducing a succession of youngsters into Western Sydney Wanderers' senior setup.

Tate Russell has impressed while deputising for Western United-bound Josh Risdon, Keanu Baccus continues to mature in midfield and Kwame Yeboah evidently learned plenty during his time in Germany.

Identifying the most polished of the emerging group and constructing a unit capable of better returns next season are the objectives over the run-in.

2017/18: 6th (22 points)

Kwame Yeboah

9. Brisbane Roar (12 points)

Not unlike Western Sydney, Brisbane Roar are undergoing a significant makeover.

The departure of Adam Taggart signifies just how priorities have shifted from the stated pre-season ambition of challenging at the top end of the table.

Last weekend's breakthrough, confidence-boosting victory over Sydney FC – including the brilliant late winner from young forward Dylan Wenzel-Halls – showed there are still constructive outcomes to be sought from the current campaign.

Perhaps more importantly, Roar's injury-hit squad will be set on upholding the club's proud record of having never picked up the wooden spoon.

2017/18: 7th (19 points)

10. Central Coast Mariners (6 points)

The simple goal for Central Coast Mariners is to accrue points and climb off the foot of the ladder.

It's a sobering reality for Mike Mulvey that the Gosford side were 10 points better off at this stage 12 months ago, though they picked up just a win and a draw from there through to season's end.

Home dates with Brisbane Roar and Western Sydney Wanderers as well as the F3 Derby in Round 22 present opportunities to better that tally and build on what has been a lean campaign thus far.

2017/18: 9th (16 points)

Mike Mulvey