Perth Glory coach Ian Ferguson is aiming to have star midfielder Liam Miller be ready for the Hyundai A-League finals campaign after confirming the midfielder would miss the next two games.
Miller has been sidelined since picking up a back injury early in Perth's 2-0 win over Newcastle on February 18, an ailment Ferguson thought was only minor at the time.
But the Irishman's attempts at returning to full training since have been unsuccessful, prompting Ferguson to confirm on Friday that he wouldn't be considered for their away match against Gold Coast United on Sunday and regular season finale against Melbourne Victory a week later.
Ferguson said there was optimism Miller could return after that, but admitted it was far from certain.
"Obviously it would be a bonus but we can't say he's definitely going to be there [in the finals]," he said.
"Things are looking positive that he may be there but I can't say he's definitely going to be there. Hopefully, touch wood, everything is pointing towards that it probably could be the finals."
"He's tried a couple of times to come back and when we pick him up at that point, that's when he feels it so we've stopped him straight away as soon as he feels that."
"It's a tough one. We don't want to rush him. We've got to take our time with him and make sure that he's right."
Miller's continued absence has left the third-placed Glory especially short on central midfield options, with Jacob Burns sidelined for at least this week with badly bruised ribs and Adam Hughes having departed the club.
But Ferguson said marquee striker Shane Smeltz would be back in the starting line-up after coming off the bench last week in his first appearance since an ankle injury that kept him out for a month.
"We're obviously a little bit short in midfield at the moment so we'll drop Steve McGarry back and drop Billy [Mehmet] into the hole and put Smeltzy up front," Ferguson said.
After ensuring their place in the top six with last week's win over Central Coast, the Glory will guarantee a home final for the first time in the A-League if they beat Gold Coast on Sunday.