Cardiff City manager Malky Mackay says he has virtually given up hope of claiming an automatic Championship promotion spot.
The Bluebirds are currently lying
eighth in the table,
nine points adrift of West Ham United in second.
Their promotion hopes have faded significantly over recent weeks following four defeats in five games.
"I think it's going to be difficult to get automatic promotion - there's no good sugar coating that," said Mackay.
Mackay says that Cardiff cannot compete with the strength of squads West Ham and leaders Southampton have put together.
"The two top clubs have shown the spending power this year with the teams they have got and the players they have got," he added.
"It's going to be difficult to match that. In January for West Ham to go out and bring in the players they have - it makes them much stronger.
Highlights - Cardiff City 0-2 West Ham
"The top two are certainly looking strong.
"[For West Ham] to bring on Carlton Cole and Gary O'Neill - two guys who have been involved in the Premier League - shows the strength they have got."
But despite being distracted by their Carling Cup run, which saw them reach the final but subsequently
lose on penalties to Liverpool
, Mackay believes Cardiff are definitely in the play-off mix with 13 games remaining.
"There's another eight teams going for the four [play-off] places," said the Scot.
"There are 13 games to go so we will keep going."
Mackay also admitted that the Carling Cup campaign took it its toll on his players, with signs of fatigue obvious in
Sunday's 0-2 home defeat by West Ham.
"It was always going to be a tough one [against West Ham]," he said.
"What would really have helped us was the international games hadn't been in the week and we hadn't have had two or three [players] flying all over the place.
"And also extra time [in the Carling Cup] as well comes into it. But overall we've still got to do better and we know that.
"I spoke to Sam [Allardyce] after the game and he was delighted that our game went to extra time and we were having more exertion on the Sunday when they played on the Saturday.
"We have seven games in March and we play every midweek which is incredible because of the Carling Cup."