Heart were pretty darn stiff not to have taken the points against Central Coast on Wednesday night, but they'll have to put aside the disappointment in order to challenge Brisbane.
Date: Saturday, January 21, 2012 Kick-off: 7.45pm (AEDT), 6.45pm (AEST) Venue: AAMI Park
Head-to-head Played: 4. Melbourne Heart 1, Brisbane Roar 3, Draws 0
Previous encounter Brisbane Roar 1, Melbourne Heart 2, Suncorp Stadium December 2011
History: Brisbane Roar won all three clashes between last season, the first of which was a 4-0 thrashing at Suncorp last September. At that time, the result was an important one for Brisbane as it was the first time they had really clicked as an attacking unit that season, despite impressing with their approach play. The rest was history as Brisbane grew in confidence from that point, with many more high-scoring results to come. The result won't be so fondly remembered for Heart, however, as it represents the club's worst loss in this competition. However, Heart started getting their own back last December. Fresh from having their 36-game unbeaten run broken by Sydney FC, many expected Brisbane to bounce back in a big way against Heart at Suncorp Stadium. But Heart announced themselves as real challengers with a 2-1 result.
Form: Past five matches: Melbourne Heart: WLDLL Brisbane Roar: LWDDW
Heart coach John van 't Schip must be wishing he was partying like it was still 2011. Prior to New Years, Heart won seven of their previous eight matches. But they haven't taken the points at all in 2012, having lost three of their four games, with all these losses coming at home. In fairness, they were pretty stiff against the Mariners.
Brisbane snapped their five-match losing streak through a quality win over Melbourne Victory on New Year's Eve, but since then, the results have been somewhat mixed. However, last weekend's 2-1 win over Sydney FC has to rate as the most dramatic result of the season so far as the Roar produced two injury time goals to snatch a 2-1 result, leading to high drama as the final whistle was blown.
Match Committee: Melbourne Heart have just announced former Adelaide midfielder Paul Reid will join the side on a short-term contract until the end of the season, presumably as cover for injured skipper Fred, who's still at least a month away with his groin issues. Reid won't be available against Brisbane but will come into the side the following week. Wayne Srhoj (quad) may be available but Nick Kalmar (back, 4 weeks) and Kliment Taseski (foot, 4-6 weeks) are both some time off.
Brisbane only have the one injury concern after skipper Matt Smith corked his thigh during the win over Sydney. But in a big boost, playmaker Thomas Broich looks set to start in the middle once again.
Danger men: Aziz Behich - The tricky little defender had three excellent chances to give Melbourne Heart the lead on Wednesday night against the Mariners, but found himself coming up against one of the all-time great goalkeeping performances from Central Coast stopper Matt Ryan.
Besart Berisha - Sayed Mohamed Adnan probably deserves this for his spectacular free kick that levelled the match with Sydney last week. But unfortunately for Adnan, he was upstaged by his team-mate Besart Berisha, who's deft little header ensured Brisbane took home the points. Making his goal all the more memorable was the fact he tore off his shirt and invited Pascal Bosschaart down to the tunnel, presumably for a well-earned Gatorade! Rumour has it Berisha's been feeling pretty low the last few days after this, but surely this competition needs characters like him, along with his super-dodgy Shane Smeltz-esque hair-cut.
At the end of the day… Heart were pretty darn stiff not to have taken the points against Central Coast on Wednesday night, but they'll have to put aside the disappointment in order to challenge Brisbane once again this weekend. The Roar may have lost some of their unbeatable mystique over the past few months, but make no mistake, with Broich back calling the shots from the word go, they should be just as dangerous as ever, particularly with Berisha looking to atone for his poor behaviour last week.
A fourth loss at home in a row won't be completely catastrophic for Heart, after all, they're still third on the Hyundai A-League table. But they certainly risk dropping back into the chasing pack if they can't crack another win soon. The problem for Heart could be containing the Brisbane ball movement off just three days break, when their opponents have had a week to prepare, and a full week to train and get ready for Broich to call the shots once again. This should be a huge challenge for Heart, but if they rise to the occasion, it will send a real message that this team remain genuine contenders this campaign.