Heart desperately need a second home win of the season ahead of tough clashes against the Central Coast Mariners and Melbourne Victory.
Date: Saturday 8 December, 2012 Kick-off: 5.30pm AEDT Venue: AAMI Park
Head-to-head Played: 5 Wins: Heart 1, Perth 4, Draws: 0
Previous encounter Perth 2, Heart 0, 21 October 2012
Form: Past five matches: Perth: LDLDW Heart: DDLWL
The Game The Glory have an excellent record against Heart with four wins in five clashes but will be stung by consecutive long-haul trips to Melbourne.
Heart coach John Aloisi will again have to do without Socceroos Michael Marrone, Aziz Behich and Richard Garcia, who are away on East Asian Cup duties.
Heart often looked exposed in wide areas against Sydney and, in truth, were lucky to escape with a 0-0 draw on Sunday. Teenage trio Ben Garuccio, 19-year-old debutant Jeremy Walker and Sam Mitchinson deputised in the wide areas for Aloisi's side and will likely have to do so again for the absent Qantas Socceroos trio.
Garuccio suffered a nasty injury following a tackle from Fabio, a card-less incident that incensed Aloisi given his already threadbare squad, and he may not feature as a result.
Winger Mate Dugandzic remains sidelined for at least another two months with a broken foot making the trio's absence all the more glaring. Walker became the first Tasmanian graduate to appear in the competition and will slot into defence again.
The Glory fought hard at AAMI Park against Victory but were ultimately undone by a piece of Marco Rojas magic in a 1-0 defeat, Perth's fourth consecutive game without a win. But Perth too, are without internationals in Scott Jamieson and Michael Thwaite, although captain Jacob Burns is set to return from suspension. Liam Miller may be available after he was a late withdrawal last Friday night with back soreness.
The big issue
Melbourne Heart - Inexperience and injuries aside, Heart could be just one more poor result away from last place on the table if Sydney manage to defeat Wellington. Much of the side's strengths lie down the flanks where Behich and Marrone provide plenty of avenues forward as well as defensive cover, which they will again have to make do without. Striker Josip Tadic will need to have his shooting boots on as will captain Fred given Heart's worrying habit of giving up home leads.
Perth Glory - Last season's grand finalists would not have expected to pick up just a point in consecutive home matches against Western Sydney and Wellington ahead of a tricky double header in Melbourne. In an even league a run of four winless matches, five if they fail to defeat Heart, will cost you dearly. Perth lie two points above Heart in sixth but are in danger of dropping as low as second last. How things can change.
Gamebreaker Fred has yet to score this season but will again be the fulcrum in Heart's midfield, no doubt with Burns in close check. The battle between the Brazilian and former Socceroo will be one to watch as both sides look to end poor runs. Fred will have greater assistance on the flanks and is the player who can unlock defences with a pass.
Prediction: Melbourne Heart 1, Perth Glory 1
Heart desperately need a second home win of the season ahead of tough clashes against the Central Coast Mariners and Melbourne Victory. Perth's travel factor as well as Heart's depleted squad will play key roles here and you get the sense both side will wane for different reasons as the match wears on. Heart have shown what they are capable of against the likes of Melbourne Victory (2-1) and double champions Brisbane Roar (4-1) but will find it tough dispensing of a more experienced Perth side.