Preview: Melbourne Heart v Wellington Phoenix

With seven teams realistically capable of making the six-team finals series, a win could secure the Heart's spot in the post-season for the first time.

Date: Saturday 10 March, 2012 Kick-off: 5.30pm AEDT Venue: AAMI Park

Head-to-head Played: 5 Wins: Heart 2, Wellington 2, Draws: 1 Previous encounter Wellington 3, Heart 1, 29 January 2012

History: Both sides have won once against each other this season. Melbourne Heart started a five-match winning streak with their 1-0 triumph against the Phoenix in December.

The match was played at LaTrobe City Stadium in Morwell, with Mate Dugandzic's first-half goal enough to separate the two sides. The Heart used the momentum gained by the win to charge up the Hyundai A-League table.

The meeting in January proved very different though, as Wellington cruised to a 3-1 victory. Paul Ifill - who has four goals in his last three matches against the Heart - bagged an important double while Chris Greenacre also scored for the winners.

In the 2010-11 season, both sides won one meeting with an entertaining 2-2 draw also taking place. The Phoenix have never beaten the Heart in Melbourne and will aim to break that hoodoo on Saturday.

Form: Past five matches: Heart: DLWWD Phoenix: WLLWW

Summary of form: After a winless streak of eight matches, the Heart finally look like they are back in form. And it is no coincidence that they have started to hit their straps once key player Fred returned.

The Brazilian is the lynchpin of the club's midfield and successive 1-0 home wins over Gold Coast United and the Central Coast Mariners were crucial in the club's bid to make the finals. Eli Babalj scored in both of those wins, which was followed by a gutsy 1-1 draw in Brisbane against the Roar last weekend. They will feel confident heading into the match.

Wellington will also be buoyant as they head to Melbourne with six wins from their last eight matches. Four of those victories have come on the road, which previously has proved difficult for the Phoenix. In the impressive run of form, they have conceded just six goals and a variety of scorers has made them hard to stop.

Match Committee: Both sides have a relatively clean bill of health at this stage of the season. Phoenix defender Tony Lochhead is expected to return after missing Sunday's 2-0 win over Gold Coast United with sickness, but Daniel (ankle) and Lucas Pantelis (knee) are likely to miss out again. For the Heart, only Kristian Sarkies (quad) is sidelined.

Danger men: Fred - When Fred plays well, the Heart play well. His absence played a big part in the club's blip through January and February and his return gives John van 't Schip's team a calming presence in the middle of the park.

He has only netted one goal this season but played a part in setting up several others. His battle with Tim Brown in the centre of midfield will be crucial in determining the winner of this fixture.

Paul Ifill - With six goals in 17 matches this season, Ifill is the Phoenix's leading scorer. Tellingly, all of his goals have come in victories. And it is not just his goals that are so vital.

The former Millwall and Crystal Palace forward plays a key role in Wellington's set-up and he brings many of his teammates into the play with clever flick-ons and deft touches. If the Heart can stop Ifill, they will feel confident of picking up all three points.

At the end of the day… The Heart are in good form and are unbeaten in their last four home matches. With seven teams realistically capable of making the six-team finals series, a win could secure the club's spot in the post-season for the first time.

hey have conceded just one goal in their last three matches and will be hard to break down. Goalkeeper Clint Bolton is in especially good form and his injury-time penalty save to deny Mohamed Adnan won the Heart a point in Brisbane last week. With Eli Babalj up front and Mate Dugandzic feeding off him, the club possess a threat up front.

And the performance of young defenders Curtis Good and Michael Marrone, in addition to the experience of Simon Colosimo and Matt Thompson, mean they are hard to break down.

But there is no reason for Wellington not to be confident either. On the back of a handy run of form, in which they have been hard to breach defensively, the likes of Andrew Durante and Ben Sigmund will make Babalj and Thompson work hard.

Tim Brown has five goals from midfield this year, while Spaniard Dani Sanchez has also scored five and will complement Ifill nicely. With both sides playing well, a tight contest is expected, with the home advantage likely to make the Heart slight favourites.