THE Western Sydney Wanderers head into this Saturday night's derby with Sydney FC with an unaccustomed form slump and two defeats in a row.
After their 2-0 loss to the Newcastle Jets on Sunday night and the mid-week Asian Champions League 3-1 capitulation to Ulsan Hyundai, coach Tony Popovic will be desperate to stop the rot so close to the finals of the A-League.
"From start to finish we were very flat and it was uncharacteristic of us," Popovic said after the Jets' loss.
"I don't know [if the ACL played a part] as we never saw anything in the past few days at training but maybe there was something to look at. It's a new experience for us in the ACL but even the players who didn't play ACL looked flat. You hope they pick it up as the game goes on but it didn't happen."
Whatever it is that's ailing the Wanderers, the coach will need to identify it sooner rather than later because the challenges ahead will get even bigger.
There are still six rounds of the A-League to go but there are more ACL fixtures in the mix over the next 30 to 40 days.
Last Wednesday it looked like the occasion got the better of the Wanderers who scored first after less than 60 seconds had elapsed but still got run over by the visitors.
On Sunday, again at Pirtek Stadium, it was a different kettle of fish altogether: The Wanderers did lack spark or were flat, as the coach admitted afterwards, but they were also up against a team that was desperate for competition points to keep their season alive. The Jets were energetic, chasing every ball, while the home side were mostly lethargic and the signs were there after the first 15 minutes it was going to be a long day for the coach and the 12,000 fans at the ground.
This Saturday night the Wanderers travel down Parramatta Road to Allianz Stadium and a clash with Sydney FC, a team not noted for consistency. It's worth noting though that they lost last week but if the Wanderers can get their mojo back they may get the three points.