While Wellington would consider themselves genuine contenders with a full squad to choose from, the loss of so many players and even their manager should prove too difficult to overcome.
Date: Sunday 14 October, 2012 Kick-off: 3.00pm AEDT, 3.00pm local Venue: AAMI Park
Head-to-head Played: 6 Wins: Melbourne Heart 2, Wellington 2, Draws: 2
Previous encounter Melbourne Heart 1, Wellington 1, 10 March 2012
Form: Past matches: Melbourne Heart: W Wellington: W
The Game Both teams head into the contest full of confidence on the back of their Round 1 victories against fancied opposition. Heart grabbed a stunning 2-1 win over Melbourne Victory in the derby at Etihad Stadium, while Wellington ruined Alessandro Del Piero's Hyundai A-League debut with a convincing 2-0 win against Sydney FC at Westpac Stadium.
Heart were desperate from the outset against Victory, pressuring Ange Postecoglou's men at every opportunity and capitalising on their chances in front of goal.
Phoenix were resolute in front of their home supporters, sticking to Ricki Herbert's system and benefiting from goals from debutants, Belgian Stein Huysegems and local teenager Louis Fenton.
With a host of injuries and absentees due to international duty, Wellington are expected to blood academy goalkeeper Scott Basalaj and defender Luke Rowe as well as uncapped squad members Michael Boxall and Cameron Lindsay.
Academy duo Hamish Watson and Tom Biss could also feature off the bench. Heart, on the other hand, have almost a full squad to choose from, with Argentine Jonatan Germano (fitness) and Golgol Mehbratu (groin) their only concerns.
The big issue Melbourne Heart - John Aloisi's decision to combine Dylan Macallister, Mate Dugandzic and David Williams up front paid instant dividends against the Victory as the trio executed the direct game plan with class and authority.
Macallister held the ball up well with wingers Dugandzic and Williams pushing forward at every opportunity. If the attacking options can continue to gel they will become one of the league's most formidable threats.
Wellington - Phoenix will lose seven players as well as manager Herbert to international commitments this weekend, with New Zealanders Leo Bertos, Tony Lochhead, Jeremy Brockie, Ben Sigmund, Mark Paston and Glen Moss named to face Tahiti in a pair of World Cup qualifiers, while Benjamin Totori has been called up for Solomon Islands.
With Vince Lia, Lucas Pantelis, Jimmy Downey, Dani Sanchez and Mirjan Pavlovic unavailable through injury, Wellington will field a completely different line-up, managed by assistant Chris Greenacre, goalkeeper coach Jonathan Gould and strength and conditioning coach Chris Baranowski.
Gamebreaker Dylan Macallister - The veteran forward was left without a club following the demise of Gold Coast United and faced the prospect of plying his trade in the NSW Premier League after an unsuccessful trial at Western Sydney Wanderers.
But he was snapped up by Aloisi in a show of faith that reaped instant rewards. The 30-year-old struck the decisive goal in Heart's win over Victory and was arguably the best player on the park. Macallister spent a season at Wellington in 2010-11 and will be keen to add to his tally against his former side.
Prediction: Heart 2 Wellington 0 Football Federation Australia rejected a request from Phoenix to postpone the game because of New Zealand's international schedule, leaving Herbert's men with a significant uphill battle.
Despite the absentees, Herbert maintained the team would cross the Tasman in search of three points. Thankfully for Phoenix, Huysegems and Fenton will be on hand to provide a target up front, though it is in defence where the visitors are most likely to be exposed.
Few knew what to expect from Heart following the departure of coach John van 't Schip, leading scorer Eli Babalj and key defenders Brendan Hamill and Curtis Good, but the likes of Macallister, Patrick Gerhardt and Richard Garcia allayed any immediate fears as Heart made the most positive of starts under new boss Aloisi and are hot favourites to continue their run against Wellington.