Melbourne Victory coach Kevin Muscat says Hyundai A-League leaders Perth Glory must face up to the reality of title favouritism as the two teams prepare to clash in Geelong on Friday.
Perth are four points clear at the top of the table after 12 matches of 2014-15, but Glory boss Kenny Lowe has consistently sought to play down his team's championship credentials.
Muscat isn't buying into those claims, insisting the team from Western Australia, narrowly beaten in the Westfield FFA Cup final, are rightly setting the pace in the race for league silverware.
"They've been top of the table for 90 percent of the campaign so far," he said.
"There's no doubt in my mind they're a good team. They've got the most points so they're the best team in the competition. We're going to have to play well to beat them."
Lowe has repeatedly accused the national media of failing to give his team the credit they deserve for their efforts so far this season, with Muscat recognising those comments as an attempt to unify the nib Stadium outfit behind a common cause.
"Kenny's trying to create a little bit of a siege mentality across there against the eastern states," he said.
"Not from my perspective, I've got a lot of respect for what they've achieved so far.
"It's not for me to discuss Kenny's style of play or their football philosophy, but I do know one thing - they've been at the top of the table for a long time now.
"They're going well .. only the uneducated would right them off. They've got a great chance of doing something and now what comes with that is expectation."
Victory will be without defender Daniel Georgievski and midfielder Rashid Mahazi through injury for the match at Simonds Stadium, with Leigh Broxham likely to revert to central midfield alongside Carl Valeri.
Adrian Leijer, dropped for the 1-0 win over Newcastle Jets on Saturday, will come back into the starting XI at centre-back.
"Realistically we're not going to take any risks with them, albeit they're very, very close," Muscat said of the injured duo.
"(They're) just a little bit short for this one."
Mahazi and Georgievski could yet be available for the trip to play Western Sydney Wanderers on Tuesday.
Matthieu Delpierre is due to return to fitness after the break for the Asian Cup.