Melbourne Heart will fancy their prospects of a breakthrough win at home while Sydney FC have the chance to score back-to-back victories, something they were able to achieve only once last season.
Date: Saturday, October 29 Kick-off: 7.45pm AEDT Venue: AAMI Park, Melbourne
Head-to-head Played: 3, Melbourne Heart 1, Sydney FC 0, Drawn 2
Previous encounter Melbourne Heart 2, Sydney FC 2, AAMI Park, February, 2011
History: Melbourne Heart holds the edge over Sydney FC with a win and two draws from their three meetings in Heart's inaugural season. After a scoreless encounter at AAMI Park, a late winner from Adrian Zahra earned the Heart a 1-0 pre-Christmas victory at SFS before a 2-2 draw in Melbourne in mid-February which included a double from the Sky Blues' Nicky Carle.
Form: Melbourne Heart: L, L, D Sydney FC: D, L, W
Melbourne Heart started the season with a shattering 3-2 injury-time loss to Newcastle and there was more disappointment the following week when they went down 2-1 at home to Perth Glory. The Red and Whites earned their first point of the campaign in last Saturday night's scoreless Melbourne derby against Victory.
After a first-up draw with Melbourne Victory at Etihad Stadium, Sydney FC were beaten 2-0 at home by titleholders Brisbane Roar the following Saturday. The Sky Blues redeemed themselves last weekend, however, with a well-deserved 2-1 win over Adelaide United at Hindmarsh Stadium.
Heart is likely to be without skipper Fred who hasn't quite recovered from the hamstring strain he sustained against Perth a fortnight back. Jason Hoffman, who came on as a substitute against Victory following his late withdrawal the previous week with a virus, may be a chance to return to the starting line-up.
Otherwise, there's no need for wholesale changes. Rutger Worm pressed his claims for promotion with a solid 45 minutes for the youth team last weekend.
Sydney FC are in good shape personnel-wise. Defender Shannon Cole, 'keeper Liam Reddy and striker Mark Bridge are all expected to be available after missing the club's win over the Reds.
Cole and Reddy have recovered from soft tissue injuries while Bridge has completed a two-match suspension for his opening-round send-off against Victory. Star signing Brett Emerton's been carrying a minor hamstring strain.
Mate Dugandzic: Melbourne Heart's best attacking player in last Saturday's derby, the former Victory striker was twice denied by super saves from Ante Covic. Dugandzic has made a bright start to the new season and will be a huge asset to the red and whites in 2011-12.
Nicky Carle: After a quiet opening fortnight Carle returned to his best against the Reds last Saturday and slotted what proved to be the winner in the 80th minute. The 29-year-old scored both of Sydney's goals - one from the penalty spot - in the 2-2 draw against Heart the last time these teams met at AAMI Park back in February.
At the end of the day...
What a difference the return of No.1 keeper Clint Bolton and veteran defender Simon Colosimo made for Melbourne Heart in last Saturday's derby. After conceding five goals in their first two outings, Heart kept Victory's much-vaunted attack safely at bay. Both will be better for the run.
Colosimo's selection had the added benefit of freeing up Matt Thompson. The 29-year-old has always been happy to play where he's most needed, but he's better suited by far to the midfield than defence. Thompson revelled in the opportunity to push forward on Saturday night. Expect more of the same against Sydney FC.
The likely availability of Cole, Reddy and Bridge presents the Sky Blues with a classic selection dilemma. Ivan Necevski could not be faulted in goal against the Reds while Rhyan Grant and Dimi Petratos made the most of their opportunities off the bench. Eighteen into 15 won't go, so something's got to give.
This contest will be open and attacking. Melbourne Heart will fancy their prospects of a breakthrough win at home while Sydney FC have the chance to score back-to-back victories, something they were able to achieve only once last season.