Preview: Melbourne Heart v Melbourne Victory

This season's previous Melbourne derby in week three produced a scoreless draw at Etihad Stadium while last season honours were shared with a win apiece and a draw.

Date: Friday December 23 Kick-off: 8:00pm AEDT, 10.00pm NZDT Venue: AAMI Park, Melbourne

Head-to-head Played 4: Wins: Melbourne Victory 1, Melbourne Heart 1, Draws: 2

Previous encounter Melbourne Victory 0, Melbourne Heart 0, Etihad Stadium, October 2011

History: This season's previous Melbourne derby in week three produced a scoreless draw at Etihad Stadium while last season honours were shared with a win apiece and a draw. The Heart won 2-1 first up, the Victory prevailed 3-1 in the rematch and their third meeting was a 2-2 thriller.

Form: Past five matches: Melbourne Heart: WLWW Melbourne Victory: DWLDW

Summary of form: After a frustrating start to the season, the Heart have tapped into a rich vein of form to claim maximum points from four of their past five starts. Their only loss in that time was away to high-flying Central Coast.

The fact that three of those four wins came on the road - including the 2-1 result against Brisbane - and the fourth in a 'home' fixture at Morwell, stands them in tremendous stead.

The winning rhythm that Heart have established has eluded the Victory, but the way they demolished Wellington last week is an ominous sign. Coach Mehmet Durakovic has been saying since week one that it will take time for his star-studded side to gel. Perhaps finally we're seeing it.

The test for Victory is to back up that performance and avoid lapses of the kind that denied them a win the previous week against lowly Adelaide.

Match Committee: Heart midfielder Jonatan Germano (hamstring) is still another week away from returning while Nick Kalmar faces another month on the sidelines because of a back injury. Kliment Taseski is a longer-term prospect with a foot fracture.

In-form Victory midfielder Billy Celeski will miss Friday night's derby after attracting a second yellow card against the Phoenix last Sunday. The only players on the club's official injury list are Matthew Kemp who's out indefinitely with a muscle strain and keeper Tando Velaphi whose long recovery from a leg fracture will endure for at least another fortnight.

Danger men: Mate Dugandzic was at his predatory best for Melbourne Heart against Perth Glory at nib Stadium last week, netting in the 87th minute to break a 1-1 deadlock.

The 22-year-old has taken a huge step up this season and will fancy his chances of scoring against his former club to add to the five goals already to his credit this season.

Slowly, surely, Harry Kewell's form has been improving for the Victory. His touch is returning, he's several yards quicker now than at the start of the season and there were times last week when he made the Phoenix defence look silly. The only thing missing, of course, has been goals. What better setting for one or more of them than Friday's derby?

At the end of the day ...

Melbourne Heart chairman Peter Sidwell said on Wednesday that he regards the Melbourne derby as the A-League's best home-and-away fixture, one that's destined to achieve 'iconic' status in Australia's sporting capital.

He'll get no argument from supporters of both sides who will be crammed into AAMI Park on Friday for what promises to be something special.

It's third versus fifth, two teams in form in a classic, standalone, six-point encounter on a warm summer's evening with bragging rights and a Christmas bonus on the line.

While neither side managed to score the last time they played back in week three, this contest reeks of goals.

With the trinity of Kewell, Hernandez and Thompson in great form, the Victory have been creating chances aplenty in recent weeks while the Heart have been quietly and effectively getting the job done.

The men in red and white are entitled to believe they have the pace up front to exploit the Victory defence.

After five highly productive weeks on the road which included their home fixture with Wellington Phoenix in Morwell, the Heart will appreciate the return to AAMI Park.

Expect a Christmas 'cracker' with more than a few surprises in store.

Teams:

TBC