Heart aiming for top two

Melbourne Heart coach John van 't Schip denies his side's hopes of a top-two finish in the Hyundai A-League are slipping away.

Melbourne Heart coach John van 't Schip denies his side's hopes of a top-two finish in the Hyundai A-League are slipping away.

After recording five straight victories during the holiday period, Heart are winless from their past three encounters suggesting their purple patch has come and gone.

Heart remain third despite their home loss to Perth Glory on Sunday but their credentials as title contenders will be severely tested when they face top sides Central Coast and Brisbane Roar followed by a trip to Wellington within the next week.

"It's the way it is. We are having this (difficult) week now but other teams have maybe had it in other parts of the season," van 't Schip said.

"It's certainly going to be a hard task for us physically and mentally. Three games in six days is something that (affects) your body and also your mind."

Van 't Schip was quick to point out that finals were still two months away when asked if Wednesday night's clash against the Mariners at AAMI Park was season defining.

"No, I don't think so at all. Of course we know if we get some results that makes it a lot easier (to make finals)," he said.

"If it isn't the case we know we are back in the big pot of all the teams that are fighting for play-offs."

"The season is by far not gone. Even if we lose the coming two games, which I am not expecting, we are still in a good spot to go into the finals."

Van 't Schip said his team understood their winning streak came against a run of out-of-form teams and wouldn't last forever, especially with stars Aziz Behich, Mate Dugandzic and Eli Babalj set to join the Qantas Australian Under 23s squad.

"We had a good run and we have some points ahead of all the other teams. So we must try to keep that gap."

"That's going to be a hard task with the schedule and the players that are leaving to go to the Olyroos," he said.

Heart will avoid making drastic changes to the team that lost 2-1 to Perth Glory on Sunday although Babalj is battling to overcome soreness and could miss out.

"Ali has some physical things that we are taking care of. That's why he didn't train today - he only did the warm-up."

"He has a longer recovery time and he could be in doubt to play."

The Mariners continue to dominate the league and sit six points clear atop of the competition after 16 games.

Van 't Schip said the Mariners' current hot form was almost as dominant as Brisbane Roar's 36-match unbeaten streak earlier.

"They are different but they are very effective."

"They can also easily play for a draw. They don't lose that easily. They are always there creating chances so they are always in the game."

"It's up to us now to pick up the challenge and give them a hard day," he said.

Meanwhile van 't Schip doused rumours linking Kristian Sarkies with a move to Newcastle Jets during the transfer window.

Sarkies had been out of favour at the Heart but in the past three matches has started in place of injured captain Fred

"Kristian is staying.... so that's not going to happen," he said.

Van 't Schip revealed there was still hope Adrian Zahra could return late in the season after the wingman on Monday managed 90 mins for Heart's youth team.

The 21-year-old has not played a Hyundai A-League match since injuring his knee as a result of the infamous clash with Kevin Muscat in the Melbourne derby this time last year.

"I just had a talk with him his morning. He is still not moving the way he did a year ago but physically he looks better and better each week," Van 't Schip said.

"He certainly needs more time but this season is still two months (to go) and maybe he will be there at the end."

"You never know," he said.