Sunderland skipper Lorik Cana believes the Black Cats can finish the season strongly - if they can get all their best players back fit.
After a promising start to the campaign, Steve Bruce's side have not won in nine league attempts to sit just three points above the drop zone.
The cause has not been helped by a string of injuries - with Bruce without ten first-teamers at one stage over Christmas - and Cana believes this disruption has been a major factor in the side's plummet down the league.
He said: "That's been the problem over these last two months - the injuries we have had.
"For a team like us who are still trying to build a good team for the future, to lose three, four and, at one stage, eight or 10 players is really hard.
"We have only played with the same back four a handful of times and we have also had to make lots of changes in midfield because of injuries.
"It's hard for the manager and the team to keep playing at the same level if there is so much disruption.
"Even the biggest teams - Arsenal, Man Utd, Chelsea - are affected when they lose a few of their best players.
"Imagine what it is like for a team like us to lose so many!
"If you look at our full-strength first eleven, I think we are definitely good enough to finish in the top 10.
"But when you look beyond that, beyond say our best 14 or 15 players, it would be very hard for us to finish in the top half."
But Cana says injuries cannot be used as an excuse.
"I don't think it is an excuse," he said. "You always know that in football you will get injuries, but when you look at the number of injuries we have had you can see that it has been a huge problem.
"We have been without half-a-dozen of our most important players for virtually two months.
"And when you have to make changes to the team, it means that even the first-team players who are in the side find it hard to maintain their level because they are now playing alongside different players."
But Cana believes the Black Cats - who next face Stoke at the Stadium of Light on Monday - can finish the season strongly if they can get their best players back fit.
He added: "We had a great start to the season but I always knew it could not continue like that all year.
"Maybe I didn't think it would turn quite so badly, but I knew there would be tougher times to come.
"Our goal has to be to finish in the top half and we are still not far away from the top 10, but we also know that we are not far away from the bottom three either.
"When we have our best players fit - people like Lee Cattermole and Michael Turner - I am sure we can finish the season strongly."