Preview: Melbourne Heart v Gold Coast United

Matches between these two have traditionally been very tight with three draws between them including the most recent match in January.

Date: Friday February 17 Kick-off: 8.00pm AEDT Venue: AAMI Park, Melbourne

Head-to-head Played 5: Wins: Heart 1, Gold Coast 1, Drawn: 3

Previous encounter Gold Coast United 1, Melbourne Heart 1, Skilled Park, January 2012

History: Matches between these two have generally been very tight with three draws between them including the most recent match in January where Kristian Sarkies scored for Heart early on only for Maceo Rigters to equalise. Heart won the previous match in November 2-1, a result which enabled them to build some momentum, winning five of their next six.

Form: Past five matches: Melbourne Heart: LDLDL Gold Coast United: LLDLL

Summary of form: Both these teams are in major troughs at the moment, with neither of them to register a win in 2012 to date, and both on eight-match runs without a win.

For Heart this has meant they have slipped from second to the precipice of the top six, with last week's 3-0 loss to the Jets their worst result of the season to date.

Gold Coast's slump has seen them cast adrift on the bottom of the table, eight points behind ninth-placed Adelaide after a horror run in recent weeks. They did show some spirit to rebound from the 4-0 thrashing against Perth and take the early lead against Adelaide, before succumbing 2-1.

Match Committee: Heart should get back talismanic midfielder Fred for this match, with the skipper likely to be given a hour to lift his team. Matt Thompson's involvement is less likely and he described himself as a 50-50 chance during the week. Curtis Good will sit this one out after he was shown two yellow cards last week, while Nick Kalmar and Kliment Taseski are both nearing returns.

Gold Coast are in such an injury crisis that 17-year-old Mitch Cooper will not only make his debut in this match, but will wear the captain's armband.

The visitors will have just two players over the age of 23 available, Maceo Rigters and Kristian Rees. Those unavailable include captain Michael Thwaite, who is suspended as well as Jonas Salley who has left the club, while coach Miron Bleiberg will sit this one out after he was suspended by the club.

Danger men: Fred - Heart have desperately missed Fred's composure and quality in the middle of the park over the past six weeks and will hope he can turn things around for them.

Ben Halloran - The young gun has been the shining light for Gold Coast this season and continues to play good football despite a run of bad results.

At the end of the day… Looking at their recent form you would struggle to see how either team is going to crack it for a win here. Both have drawn three and lost five of their past eight and the confidence has been sapped from two young sides.

But for Heart this match represents a good opportunity to turn things around and rescue their campaign for the finals. They get back Fred, could have Thompson and face a GCU side decimated by injury and low on confidence.

There are those who feel the timing of John van 't Schip's announcement that he will leave at the end of the season is having a negative effect, but the Dutchman has his players trained better than that.

They still have the right approach, largely, they have just looked a little dis--jointed without their senior midfielders as well as the three players on duty with the Olympic team, Mate Dugandzic, Aziz Behich and Jason Hoffman.

Gold Coast are ripe for the picking. Clearly their results in recent weeks have suffered as Miron Bleiberg has been forced to test his depth and take a long-term gain, short-term pain approach.

Bleiberg's shock suspension on game eve plus Cooper's bizarre ascension to the captaincy only add to the feeling that the end of the season can't come soon enough for GCU.

Despite the long list of absentees, they have plenty of talent available, but it is doubtful that in the current circumstances they can get it together enough to prevent Heart from getting a much-needed win.

Teams:

Melbourne Heart squad:1.Clint Bolton (GK), 2.Michael Marrone, 3.Brendan Hamill, 4.Simon Colosimo, 5.Fred ©, 6.Matt Thompson, 7.Rutger Worm, 9.Maycon, 10.Wayne Srhoj, 11.Alex Terra, 13.Jonatan Germano, 15.David Williams, 19.Eli Babalj, 26.Paul Reid, 27.Craig Goodwin, 30.Sebastian Mattei (GK) *one to be omitted*

In: Fred, Matt Thompson (return from injury) Out: Kristian Sarkies (calf - 2 weeks), Curtis Good (suspended) Unavailable: Aziz Behich, Mate Dugandzic, Jason Hoffman (all Qantas Australian U23 duty)

Gold Coast United squad: 20.Jerrad Tyson [gk], 2.Josh Brillante, 4.Zac Anderson, 5.Kristian Rees, 7.Golgol Mebrahtu, 11.Jake Barker-Daish, 14.Ben Halloran, 15.Adama Traore, 17.Chris Harold, 21.Daniel Severino, 26.Ambes Yosief, 28.Daniel Bowles, 29.Mitch Bevan, 30.Brendan White [gk], 33.Mitch Cooper (c)

In: 11.Jake Barker-Daish (promoted), 20.Jerrad Tyson [gk] (promoted), 26.Ambes Yosief (promoted), 33.Mitch Cooper (promoted) Out: 3.Michael Thwaite (suspended - 1 match), 16.Maceo Rigters (not selected), 24.Jonas Salley (end of short-term contract), 40.Chris O-Connor [gk] (not selected)

Unavailable: 1.Glen Moss (groin injury - 4 weeks), 6.Paul Beekmans (compassionate leave - indefinite), 9.Joel Porter (calf - 3 weeks), 10.Tahj Minniecon (foot injury - 2 weeks), 12.Dylan Macallister (hamstring - 5 weeks), 13.Ante Rozic (hamstring injury - 1 week), 18.James Brown (ankle injury - 1 week), 19.Chris Broadfoot (ankle injury - indefinite), 22.Peter Jungschlager (hip injury - 1 week), 23.Dylan McGowan (international duty)