Preview: Melbourne Heart v Central Coast Mariners

These clubs created history when they met in the Heart's inaugural Hyundai A-League match on August 5 2010 at AAMI Park.

Date: Wednesday, January 17 Kick-off: 7.30pm AEDT Venue: AAMI Park

Head-to-head Played: 4. Melbourne Heart 0, Central Coast 3, Draws 1

Previous encounter Heart 1, Mariners 1, February 4, 2011

History: These clubs created history when they met in the Heart's inaugural Hyundai A-League match on August 5 2010 at AAMI Park. Sadly for the new boys, Alex Wilkinson scored the only goal of the match in the 16th minute to hand the Mariners a hard-fought 1-0 win.

They squared off just six weeks later at Gosford and it was a carbon copy result to the first time around with the Mariners getting the cash 1-0. That time Daniel McBreen proved the hero for the Mariners by scoring in the 20th minute.

In their latest encounter Heart's hopes of making the 2010/11 finals were extinguished after the Mariners held them to a 1-1 draw at a wet AAMI Park.

Form: Past five matches: Heart: WWLDL Mariners: WDWWD

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.

They are in danger of a sliding down the A-League ladder following their home loss to Perth Glory on Sunday. John van 't Schip 's men are clinging to third spot but face top sides the Mariners and Brisbane Roar in the next week.

Top-of-the-competition had their A-League lead cut to six points after being held at home against Newcastle Jets.

Labinot Haliti put the Jets ahead early before the Mariners equalised in the second half through a header by Dutch defender Patrick Zwaanswijk. The draw extended the Mariners' unbeaten run to 13 matches.

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

John van 't Schip is desperate to uncover players to offset the loss of play-maker Fred. Both Jason Hoffman and Jonatan Germano struggled to have the same impact on Sunday so a midfield reshuffle may be in order.

Returning Simon Colosimo may be rushed into the holding midfield role while young winger/striker David Williams has won a promotion.

The Mariners virtually have a full squad to choose from. Pedj Bojic returns from suspension and gives Arnold another option in defence since.

Daniel McBreen did a serviceable job from the start alongside Bernie Ibini in attack and with the absence of Matt Simon should keep his spot in the starting XI. Although Kwasnik and Troy Hearfield are pushing hard for a berth as well.

Danger men: Matt Thompson. Back in his favoured midfield role this season after playing most of last campaign in central defence, the former Jets star is arguably in some of the best form of his career. He seems to have rediscovered the ability to make incisive, late runs and that's just what Heart need in the absence play-making skipper Fred.

Bernie Ibini - In a side that boasts experienced stars like Alex Wilkinson, Patrick Zwaanswijk, John Hutchinson and Rostyn Griffiths at their disposal, it's good to see some of the club's young stars continue to shine. One of those is Ibini, who has developed into a real weapon for the Mariners. The youngster often threatened last week against the Jets and his partnership with Matt Simon is improving every week.

At the end of the day… If ever there was a time for the Hyundai A-League's newest team to stand up and prove they are worthy of a top-two spot then surely it's in this match against the Mariners.

But there's a reason the Central Coast top the table and are enjoying a 12-game unbeaten run.

They are playing with confidence, flair and their typical efficiency which makes them extremely difficult to beat. Coach Graham Arnold has them playing to a simple and perfect game-plan which means even when key personnel have an off day, it's easy for someone else to step in and play their role.

Heart's biggest issue of late is their inability to penetrate in the attacking third and it's hard to see that changing against the Mariners' in-form midfield. The best they can hope for is a draw.

Teams

Melbourne Heart squad:

1.Clint Bolton (GK), 2.Michael Marrone, 3.Brendan Hamill, 4.Simon Colosimo, 6.Matt Thompson (C), 7.Rutger Worm, 8.Kristian Sarkies, 9.Maycon, 11.Alex Terra, 13.Jonatan Germano, 15.David Williams, 16.Aziz Behich, 17.Jason Hoffman, 18.Curtis Good, 19.Eli Babalj, 23.Mate Dugandzic, 30.Sebastian Mattei (GK) *two to be omitted*

In: Simon Colosimo (returns from injury), David Williams (promoted) Out: Nil

Unavailable: Nick Kalmar (back - 4 weeks), Kliment Taseski (foot - 4 to 6 weeks), Fred (groin - 4 to 6 weeks), Wayne Srhoj (quad - 1 week)

Central Coast Mariners squad: 1. Mathew Ryan (Gk), 2. Daniel McBreen, 3. Joshua Rose, 4. Pedj Bojic, 6. Patrick Zwaanswijk, 7. John Hutchinson, 8. Rostyn Griffiths, 9. Bernie Ibini, 11. Oliver Bozanic, 12. Troy Hearfield, 14. Michael McGlinchey, 16. Trent Sainsbury, 18. Alex Wilkinson, 20. Justin Pasfield (Gk), 22. Mustafa Amini, 23. Adam Kwasnik *one to be omitted* In: 4. Pedj Bojic (returns from suspension), 8. Rostyn Griffiths (returns from injury) Out: 5. Brad Porter