Preview: Melbourne Heart v Newcastle Jets

Melbourne Heart and Newcastle Jets will meet in Round 15 of the 2013-14 A-League season at AAMI Park on Friday, January 17 at 7:30pm AEDT.

Melbourne Heart and Newcastle Jets will meet in Round 15 of the 2013-14 A-League season at AAMI Park on Friday, January 17 at 7:30pm AEDT.

Head-to-head:

Played 10, Wins: Heart 3, Jets 5, Draws: 2

Previous encounter:

Jets 3-1 Heart, November 24, 2013

Form: Past five matches

Heart: LDLLL Jets: DLLWL

The Game:

Can Melbourne Heart avoid setting a new A-League record of 20 matches without a win? If they fail to beat the Jets, they will relieve the defunct New Zealand Knights of their unwanted winless record, and then have a claim to being the worst team in the competition's brief history. While that is surely something John van 't Schip and his players will be desperate to avoid, doing so will be easier said than done for a side that has struggled so comprehensively throughout the first half of the 2013-14 campaign.

The Jets meanwhile fought out a respectable 1-1 draw at home to Melbourne Victory last week. Despite being without Andrew Hoole, Adam Taggart, Josh Brillante and Connor Chapman due to international duty, as well as missing Mitch Cooper and Scott Neville through long-term injury, Gary van Egmond will still be confident of claiming all three points against the rock-bottom Heart.

The big issue:

Heart - Goals, at both ends. Heart have only scored once in their last four outings, with striker Michael Mifsud failing to fire and his fellow attackers equally goal-shy. Mate Dugandzic was culpable of a glaring miss in the 3-0 loss to Perth Glory last time out, an incident symptomatic of Heart's malaise in front of goal. The problem is compounded by the fact that the red and whites are far from watertight at the other end, leaving van 't Schip with plenty to do but little to work with.

Jets - Newcastle are sixth on the ladder, level on points with Sydney and just two ahead of a resurgent Adelaide. They need to make it through a tough patch in which they are missing their Australian under-22 contingent without dropping too many points if they want to maintain realistic finals hopes. Centre-back Kew Jaliens will return from suspension for the trip to Melbourne, while new arrival Joel Griffiths can help cover for the loss of Nathan Burns back to South Korea.

The game breaker:

Harry Kewell - The Heart skipper is finally stringing games together after overcoming his early season injury problems. Now it's time for the veteran to deliver in the playmaker role earmarked for him by departed coach John Aloisi. With the Jets weakened somewhat by absentees, Friday's game is as good a chance as any to finally get off the mark. The experienced former Socceroo will need to produce a performance worthy of his billing if that is to happen.