After defeating the expansion club three times last campaign, the Roar have found John van 't Schip's men a little tougher to deal with.
Date: Friday 2 March, 2012 Kick-off: 8.00pm AEDT, 7.00pm local Venue: Suncorp Stadium
Head-to-head Played: 5 Wins: Brisbane 3, Heart 1, Draws: 1
Previous encounter Heart 1, Brisbane 1, 21 January 2012
History: Brisbane are yet to beat Melbourne Heart this season. After defeating the expansion club three times last campaign, the Roar have found John van 't Schip's men a little tougher to deal with. Their first meeting this term was in early December, and it was the Heart who were victorious at Suncorp Stadium. This was five days after Brisbane's magical 36-match unbeaten run came to an end. Clearly, they were still coming to terms with the fact that their famed aura of invincibility was completely gone. The Heart pounced, with first-half goals to Jonatan Germano and Eli Babalj doing the business for them. If you recall, that was the game when Germano pulled a Santa hat from the depths of his underwear and got his mug in every newspaper the next day. Then, in January, the two sides fought out a stalemate at AAMI Park. Germano netted once again, but Besart Berisha levelled for the visiting team.
Form: Past five matches: Brisbane: LWWWW Heart: LDLWW
Summary of form: Brisbane are just about the form team of the competition. Their last four games have their fans daring to dream of back-to-back premierships, with the table-topping Mariners starting to lose their way a little. But it's the manner of those wins that's most impressive. The Roar have scored 10 goals in their current stretch and have only conceded two - and those came on the same night, against Melbourne Victory two weeks ago. They were 3-0 winners in their last start away to Perth Glory, and making the marathon trip across the Nullarbor is never an easy task, so they're in good touch.
The Heart are also looking reasonable at the moment, but they don't have a winning streak the size of Brisbane's to back it up. The red and whites have won two on the bounce, though, and both were at home - first against struggling Gold Coast and then the Mariners. Their charge to the finals is back on track, but they can't afford to slip up. Fortunately, their defence is clicking into gear - Melbourne Heart have kept three clean sheets in their last four games.
Match Committee: After slapping Perth's Jacob Burns, the Roar's livewire winger Henrique has been handed a two game-suspension - and his ingenuity in attack will be missed by Brisbane. Thomas Broich (shoulder) is also under an injury cloud, but they'll get back Rocky Visconte and Matt Jurman from Olyroos duty. The Heart, on the other hand, have close to a full quota to pick from.
Danger men: Besart Berisha - Big bad Bes Berisha is in scintillating form. As always, that means plenty of goals. He has found the back of the net six times from his last seven starts, and he's shown no signs of slowing down following consecutive braces against Melbourne Victory and Perth. Now the Albanian has his sights set on the all-time Hyundai A-League goalscoring record. Allow Brisbane to play their football, give Berisha space and you're bound for disaster. And Bes will get his record.
Eli Babalj - There's big raps on this kid, but time and time again he shows that he deserves them. Babalj is physically imposing, but it's unfair to consider him simply a burly target man. He's more than that - his sheer presence takes pressure off his team-mates, allowing him to bring them into the game and, if needed, to finish off their moves. With six goals for the season, he's been a reasonably regular outlet for the Heart.
At the end of the day… Are Brisbane Roar back? It's a scary prospect if you're a supporter of another side in the Hyundai A-League, but it looks like a reality. The machine is functioning. Their win over the Glory was clinical, their triumph over Melbourne Victory was hard-fought. They're tight at the back and running smooth up front - that's without the usual brilliance of Thomas Broich, who has been battling injury. But now Henrique is out for two games and suddenly a whole heap of responsibility falls on the other players in the squad - Issey Nakajima-Farran, Mitch Nichols, Massimo Murdocca and Nick Fitzgerald. While their depth is being tested, the Heart are in a nice little patch right now and will be close to full-strength. So who wins? It depends how confident you are in the system Ange Postecoglou has the Roar playing. It's hard to fault them at the moment, particularly given the ways some of the club's younger prospects and fringe players have performed when needed. They're at home, they remain fully confident in themselves - it might be too much for the Heart. Brisbane for the win.