Preview: Melbourne Heart v Newcastle Jets

The Heart desperately need to return to winning ways at AAMI Park, where they have won just three of their past 12 matches.

Date: Saturday 24 November, 2012 Kick-off: 5.30pm AEDT, 5.30pm local Venue: AAMI Park, Melbourne

Head to head: Played: 6, Wins: Melbourne Heart 2, Newcastle Jets 3, Draws: 1

Previous encounter: Newcastle Jets 3, Melbourne Heart 0, 11 February 2012

Form: Past five matches: Melbourne Heart: LWLLL Newcastle Jets: LWLWW

The Game Both teams head into the clash in search of improvement following frustrating losses last time out. The Heart went down to league leaders Adelaide United 1-0 at Hindmarsh Stadium, while the Jets were stunned 3-0 by Wellington Phoenix at Hunter Stadium.

The Heart, who made an ideal start to the season with a win over local rivals Melbourne Victory, are looking to find form after a painful reality check. John Aloisi's men have lost four of their past five games and are ninth on the ladder, just one point above bottom-placed Sydney FC.

Newcastle could have climbed to second with a win over Wellington, but instead remain third, four points behind United. The Jets were hot favourites to account for Phoenix at home, but were convincingly outplayed as a Jeremy Brockie brace and Paul Ifill penalty handed the visitors an unlikely victory.

The Heart are set to welcome back captain Fred from a hamstring injury, though his likely inclusion is offset by the loss of winger Mate Dugandzic, who will miss up to three months with a broken foot.

Newcastle will be without goalkeeper Mark Birighitti for up to eight weeks with a fractured cheekbone, paving the way for reserve goalkeeper Matthew Nash to fill the void, while Chris Grossman could feature in the midfield after signing as injury cover for Ben Kantarovski.

The Big Issue Melbourne Heart: The Heart desperately need to return to winning ways at AAMI Park, where they have won just three of their past 12 matches. Heart were brilliant in their 4-1 thumping of champions Brisbane Roar two weeks ago but were unable to maintain the same level of performance against Adelaide eight days later.

The Heart scraped into the finals series last season and will find the task increasingly difficult this time around if they continue to let points go begging at home.

Newcastle Jets: With Birighitti requiring surgery and fellow custodian Ben Kennedy sidelined for at least four more weeks with a knee injury, Nash will be given another opportunity to prove himself at Hyundai A-League level. Nash made nine appearances for the Jets before he was released at the end of last season.

But the injury crisis has opened the door for the 31-year-old to return to the fold and his performance in goal could prove the difference for the Jets when it comes to the pointy end of the season.

Gamebreaker Fred: The Heart skipper is raring to go after returning to full fitness. Fred put his hand up for selection against Adelaide but was given an extra week to recover for precautionary reasons. Given his run of injuries over the past two seasons, the Heart faithful will be desperate to see the Brazilian playmaker establish himself as a regular on the pitch.

Fred will be just as keen to get some playing time under his belt as he sets his sights on a formidable partnership with former Qantas Socceroos midfielder Vince Grella, who is set to make his A-League debut in the coming weeks after joining the club last month.

Prediction: Melbourne Heart 1, Newcastle Jets 1 Aloisi accused his players of throwing in the towel at Hindmarsh Stadium and will be expecting a sharp increase in their desperation on their return to Melbourne. The Heart coach could wield the axe for the fixture, with Fred an almost certain starter alongside Ben Garuccio and David Vrankovic, who were away on youth international commitments.

Jets coach Gary van Egmond slammed his side's lacklustre performance in Newcastle and will also be looking for a significant turnaround. The Jets had been one of the form teams of the competition heading into the match but were humbled by their sixth straight loss to Wellington.

The nine games between the two teams have produced 17 goals, and while Heart secured a 3-0 win last time the teams met at AAMI Park, we expect the contest to be more even, with the home side desperate to avoid a loss.