Melbourne Victory will play their seventh game in 23 days when they face Adelaide United on Sunday in a clash crucial to their A-League Women finals hopes.
As Melbourne Victory attempt to end their hectic run of games with a win over Adelaide United, coach Jeff Hopkins hopes their staggering A-League Women fixture crunch won't be repeated.
Saturday's game at Coopers Stadium is Victory's seventh in 23 days, a brutal run created by matches being rescheduled after COVID-19 postponements.
"We've played half the season in three weeks," Hopkins said.
"Obviously it puts a huge workload on the players and if we're not prepared for it - like we do a pretty tough pre-season but we don't prepare to play this many games in such a short period of time - it does put a huge stress on the players' bodies.
"In terms of injuries and serious injuries we've got to really look at the amount of games that we're playing and putting the players through during this period.
"The other thing is, for us, our lack of preparation. We haven't been able to prepare properly for all these games and when I say properly, we haven't been able to do the work on the field that we'd normally do.
"Look, it's something we've had to do and we've just kind of taken it on board and got on with it but ideally there needs to be a bit of a balance.
"It's great that we do get to play midweek games and we have to back up every now and again but maybe this is just a little bit too far down the continuum in too many games in this short period of time."
The Reds have vastly improved since losing to Victory 5-1 in round one and can seal a maiden finals berth with a win, while Melbourne are just two points clear of fifth-placed Perth.
Victory have been boosted by Matildas midfielder Alex Chidiac extending her contract until season's end.
Chidiac was initially due to end her loan and return to Japanese club JEF United this week but will instead be crucial to unlocking Adelaide, who have the attacking double-threat of Fiona Worts and Chelsie Dawber, who has shaken off a knee injury.
Saturday marks Adelaide's Pride Games, with United players to wear rainbow numbers and names on their jerseys, while Victory will have rainbow motifs on their socks.
"It's something we all feel pretty pretty strongly about," Hopkins said.
"It's really important that we stand up and make a bit of a statement that our game is for everyone, everyone's included and nobody's left out."
Teenager Alana Murphy could potentially return from an ankle injury but Emma Robers (concussion) is sidelined.