|By RONNY LERNER
Western Sydney coach Tony Popovic said he was immensely proud of his players who extended the club's record A-League winning run to 10-straight matches on Saturday with a 3-1 victory over the Melbourne Heart.
The Wanderers are eight points clear on top of the A-League ladder and will be crowned premiers in their debut season if Central Coast fail to beat Brisbane on Sunday.
But Popovic maintains he has not thought about that prospect and is only focused on next Saturday's city derby with Sydney FC.
"We haven't really reflected on that yet," Popovic said post-match.
"I just spoke to the players [and] told them that we're immensely proud of them and we focus for next week.
"We've got a great derby coming up, something the players, the fans, everyone involved with the club is really looking forward to and we'll focus on that.
"We've put ourselves in a position that we control what will happen, if we keep winning then obviously the Premiers' Plate is ours."
But while Popovic insisted he has embraced the A-League finals system, the Wanderers coach believed if his side finished on top they would be worthy champions of Australia - regardless of who won the grand final.
"When you're in Europe, you're used to first [team] past the post [being crowned champions] and that's the way it is there," Popovic said.
"We in this country love a grand final, we love a finals series but if you're on top after 27 rounds, well then you're a worthy champion."
Heart coach John Aloisi, meanwhile, has refused to give up hope on making this season's A-League finals despite losing their third-successive match.
The Heart are now ninth on the ladder and must win their final two matches against Brisbane and Central Coast to have any realistic chance of finishing in the top six.
But both of those fixtures are away from home and the Melbourne side are going to have to undergo a dramatic transformation on the road if they are to secure the maximum six points on offer given they have collected just one point outside of the Victorian capital this season.
"We can't give up because that's not in my nature to give up," Aloisi said following the Heart's 3-1 loss to the Wanderers.
"We'll keep on fighting to the end and we will make sure that we give everything to try and get a result next week against Brisbane.
"Our away form hasn't been great... [but] why not win two away from home now?
"I learned [against Western Sydney] that my players won't give up, they kept on trying right until the end.
"So I know that we're still able to go Brisbane [next Sunday] and give everything to get a result."