Depth a worry for van 't Schip

Melbourne Heart coach John van 't Schip has admitted his team will be left vulnerable when their three Qantas Australia U23s stars head overseas next week for a month on national duty.

Melbourne Heart coach John van 't Schip has admitted his team will be left vulnerable when their three Qantas Australia U23s stars head overseas next week for a month on national duty.

Already reeling from the indefinite loss of talismanic skipper Fred (groin), Heart will be without Aziz Behich and Mate Dugandzic, who have been key to their rapid improvement this season, along with Jason Hoffman for up to four matches as they aim to get the national U23s' spluttering Olympic campaign back on track in qualifiers against Uzbekistan and the UAE respectively.

The trio will be available for Heart's clash with Phoenix in Wellington on Sunday before they head off with the U23s for important Group B matches in Tashkent (February 5) and Abu Dhabi (February 17).

And while van 't Schip doesn't doubt the quality of players he has at his disposal to cover their absence, he intimated his team would be left exposed if they suffered any more personnel losses before they returned.

"I'm confident we have players that can fill in and we are getting players back," van 't Schip said following training at La Trobe University Sports Fields.

"We can manage well. Of course, within that if then something happens we don't have that much depth after that anymore."

"So we have to be careful that the players that we have here, that we keep them fit."

Van 't Schip said that the Heart was unlikely to sign up another new player to help cover the talented threesome following the capture of former Adelaide midfielder Paul Reid last week.

The Heart boss revealed there wouldn't be any changes from the squad that drew with Brisbane 1-1 at AAMI Park six days ago for the clash with Phoenix but that the starting XI could be tinkered with.

Melbourne have been stuck in a rut that has seen them collect just two points from a possible 15.

The worrying slump followed a radiant period in which they recorded seven wins from eight matches and van 't Schip suggested unfavourable scheduling may have deflated the side earlier in the year and sparked their current five-match winless run.

"With high expectations that came after that 4-0 (win) against Sydney (on December 29) and having our first home game against Adelaide in the New Year on a Wednesday was difficult in the afternoon at three (o'clock)," van 't Schip said.

"So we were thinking, yeah, it would be better to have it on a Saturday, getting a lot of crowds because of the run we had of the last (Melbourne) derby we played at home (which Heart won 3-2)."

"The result would have helped getting more people to come and to watch the game (at a more favourable timeslot) so that was actually a big disappointment."