Preview: Melbourne Heart v Perth Glory

After three draws in this fixture in the Heart's debut season, the two clubs have split a win apiece in their two previous encounters this campaign, with the away side winning on both occasions.

Date: Sunday, January 15 Kick-off: 4pm AEDT Venue: AAMI Park

Head-to-head Played 5: Wins: Perth 1, Heart 1, Draws: 3

Previous encounter Perth 1, Heart 2, December 17, 2011

History: After three draws in this fixture in the Heart's debut season, the two clubs have split a win apiece in their two previous encounters this campaign, with the away side winning on both occasions. The first one saw Perth striker Shane Smeltz grab a double in a 2-0 win at AAMI Park, while the most recent clash last month, a late Mate Dugandzic goal handed the Heart a 2-1 win.

Form: Past five matches: Heart: WWWLD Perth: LLDDW

After recording five straight wins, the Heart have had a mini-blip in recent weeks, picking up just one point from their last two matches. The disappointing 3-1 loss to Adelaide on Big Wednesday was followed up with a lucky 1-1 draw with the last placed Gold Coast last weekend. But John van 't Schip's side are still in equal second spot on the ladder and well-placed for a top-two finish in the closing rounds.

On the other hand the Glory seems to be on the way up after a difficult run where they struggled to pick up points. After a fighting draw with champions Brisbane, Perth registered their first win in Wellington last time out with a last-gasp 1-0 win over the Phoenix last Sunday. Are in a big logjam with at least five other sides for spots in the bottom half of the top six.

Match Committee: The Heart were dealt some bad news this week with confirmation influential skipper Fred is likely to miss the next six weeks with a groin injury.

Jonatan Germano (hamstring) and Wayne Shroj (quad) should be available again after a few weeks on the sidelines. Defender Adrian Madaschi will also be absent with his short-term contract ending last weekend.

No new injury concerns for the Glory but their medical staff have been kept busy with longer-term injuries to Chris Coyne (achilles), Victor Sikora (hip), Scott Neville (knee), Neil Young (abdominal) and Andrezinho (hamstring).

Danger men: Kristian Sarkies - He was the forgotten man at the Heart a couple of weeks ago but since forcing his way into the side, Sarkies has shown the special talent that he is. The former Victory and Adelaide midfielder is a real weapon for the Heart - especially from set pieces - as evidenced by his spectacular free-kick goal against Gold Coast last Sunday.

Josh Mitchell - With injuries to key defenders Chris Coyne and Scott Neville, Mitchell has become a key component in the Glory's hopes of pushing for a finals berth. He is enjoying a long run in the Glory defence and has looked more and more at home each week, is a real presence in both boxes, grabbing the crucial winner in the victory over Wellington last weekend.

At the end of the day… Both these sides have had contrasting runs of form of late, which makes this game a difficult one to call. If this game was three weeks ago you would put your house on the Heart, who were flying high with five straight wins while the Glory were in freefall, but it's turned around in the last fortnight with the Heart struggling to pick up points while Ian Ferguson's side are on a three-match unbeaten run.

The loss of Fred can't be understated for the Heart, with the Brazilian maestro a central figure in the Red and Whites surge up the ladder. It will mean great responsibility will fall on the shoulders of Matt Thompson, Sarkies and Wayne Shroj (if fit) to create opportunities in the middle of the park.

You know what you're going to get with the Glory, plenty of grit and effort for the full 90 minutes which will mean an uncomfortable afternoon for the home side. The real question is whether the Glory have that little bit extra to unlock the Heart-s miserly defence.

The two previous clashes went to the away side but I'm expecting that trend to end here. Heart to win.

Teams

Melbourne Heart squad: 1.Clint Bolton (GK), 2.Michael Marrone, 3.Brendan Hamill, 4.Simon Colosimo, 6.Matt Thompson, 7.Rutger Worm, 8.Kristian Sarkies, 9.Maycon, 10.Wayne Srhoj, 11.Alex Terra, 13.Jonatan Germano, 15.David Williams, 16.Aziz Behich, 17.Jason Hoffman, 18.Curtis Good, 19.Eli Babalj, 23.Mate Dugandzic, 30.Sebastian Mattei (GK) *three to be omitted*

In: Maycon (promoted), Simon Colosimo, Jonatan Germano, Wayne Srhoj (all return from injury) Out: Fred (groin 4-6 weeks) Unavailable: Nick Kalmar (back - 4 weeks), Kliment Taseski (foot - indefinite)

Perth Glory squad: 1.Danny Vukovic (Gk), 2.Josh Mitchell, 3.Bas Van Den Brink, 4.Billy Mehmet, 5.Steve Pantelidis, 7.Jacob Burns (C) 8.Adam Hughes, 9.Shane Smeltz, 10.Liam Miller, 13.Travis Dodd, 14.Steven Mcgarry, 15.Tommy Amphlett, 16.Evan Berger, 17.Todd Howarth, 18. Jesse Makarounas, 19, Josh Risdon, 21.Mile Sterjovski, 22.Adam Taggart, 27.Andrezinho 30. Lewis Italiano (Gk) ** Five To Be Omitted**

In: 3.Bas Van Den Brink (Returns From Injury), 4.Billy Mehmet (Returns From Injury), 15.Tommy Amphlett (Promoted),18. Jesse Makarounas (Promoted) Out: Nil Unavailable: 6.Chris Coyne (Achilles), 11.Victor Sikora (Hip - Long Term Injury List), 12.Scott Neville (Knee), 20.Neil Young (Abdominal)