Melbourne Heart will go into their first game of the New Year short on confidence after a run of three straight losses.
Date: Tuesday, January 1, 2013 Kick-off: 4pm AEDT Venue: AAMI Park, Melbourne
Head-to-head: Played 7: Wins: Melbourne Heart 2, Newcastle 3, Draws: 2
Previous encounter: Melbourne Heart 3-3 Newcastle , November 24 2012
Form: Past five matches: Melbourne Heart: LLLWD Newcastle: LWLLL
The Game: Melbourne Heart will go into their first game of the New Year short on confidence after a run of three straight losses. Their 3-2 loss to Wellington Phoenix last week will be particularly disappointing for John Aloisi's men as they saw an early 2-0 lead disappear, a result which saw them drop to the foot of the Hyundai A-League table. But Heart will still be boosted by the return of suspended central defensive duo Simon Colosimo and Patrick Gerhardt, who were sorely missed against the Phoenix. The match should also see Qantas Socceroo pair Richard Garcia and Aziz Behich, who were rested for the trip across the Tasman, come back into the side.
Meanwhile, Newcastle will be reeling after losing 3-2 to Melbourne Victory in what was a gripping encounter on Friday night with Gary van Egmond's side being torn apart by Kiwi sensation Marco Rojas. The defeat was the Jets' fifth in seven games with their indifferent form seeing them sit seventh on the table. However with Heart bottom of the table, the Jets will be aiming for all three points on Tuesday and should be confident they can get them.
The big issue: Melbourne Heart - Defensive frailties have significantly hindered Aloisi's side in recent weeks with Heart conceding seven goals in their last three games. The return of Colosimo and Gerhardt should go some way to addressing this issue but it is no quick fix and the home side will have to be on top of their defensive game to stop the likes of Emile Heskey.
Newcastle - The issue for the Jets remains: how to use Heskey. While van Egmond's men have undoubtedly improved since the early rounds where they sought out the Englishman at every opportunity, there are times when they fall back into their old habits and punt the ball up the field and hope the striker can conjure something up. They will need to find different dimensions to their attack and do so consistently in order to break down the Heart and judging by recent performances they are no certainty to do so.
The game breaker: Ruben Zadkovich - The former Derby man scored a belter against Victory on Friday and his range of passing from midfield should be a key concern for Heart. The 26-year-old isn't a stranger to scoring against the league's bottom side either, finding the back of the net in the 3-3 draw in November. His experience also adds a calming influence to the Newcastle side and he has the quality to have a major influence on the game.
Prediction: Melbourne Heart 1-2 Newcastle While Melbourne Heart have the ability it is their defence that is the most worrying part to their game and it is hard to see them keeping out a Newcastle front-line headed by cult-hero Heskey. If former Heart man Craig Goodwin, Ryan Griffiths and Zadkovich are able to get themselves into the game they will add another dimension to the Jets going forward and this coupled with Heart's shaky defence should be enough to get the Jets over the line.