Preview: Perth Glory v Melbourne Heart

It's a cliche, but this really could go either way. While Perth are a good side, they are susceptible to fast counter-attacks and that's one area the Heart can rightly claim to be better at.

Date: Sunday 1 April, 2012 Kick-off: 7.00pm AEDT, 5.00pm local Venue: nib Stadium

Head-to-head Played: 6 Wins: Perth 2, Heart 1, Draws: 3

Previous encounter Perth 2, Heart 1, 15 January 2012

History: It's do or die stuff for these two teams in a match that represents firsts for both of them.

This is Perth's debut Hyundai A-League home final, and it's also the first time Melbourne Heart have figured at the pointy end of the season following an ultimately unsuccessful inaugural campaign last year.

The Heart have never lost at nib Stadium in three attempts but dropped two games to the Glory at home this term, so their short history is neither in their favour or against them.

Form: Past five matches: Perth: LWWLW Heart: WDDDD

Summary of form: The Glory were considered one of the form teams of the competition up until a shock 3-0 drubbing on the Gold Coast two weeks ago. On the back of two consecutive wins - away to Adelaide and at home to eventual premiers Central Coast - the Western Australian side were fairly rattled after the competition's whipping boys turned the tables on them.

However, Perth were able to return to the winner's circle straight away, pumping Melbourne Victory 4-2. They'll be happy with the way they're playing.

Also looking good is the Heart, who come into this one on the back of six games undefeated. Sure, three of them were draws, but all three of those games were against teams who are now in the finals, and were it not for a little more luck they could have stolen the points in one or two of those.

They did manage to beat the Mariners at the end of February, so they have it in themselves to get results off more fancied opponents.

Match Committee: There's a few unavailable for Perth, but they've managed to cope well despite that.

Josh Mitchell (back), Chris Coyne (Achilles), Jacob Burns (ribs), Liam Miller (back), Steven McGarry (hamstring), Victor Sikora (hip) and Evan Berger (hamstring) are all injured, but all their names will all be considered at the selection table this week with most starting to get the better of their fitness concerns. Miller is the likeliest to play, while Dean Heffernan will return from suspension. The Heart have a clean bill of health.

Danger men: Liam Miller - There's little doubt that Perth is a far better side when Miller is in midfield. If he returns from a back problem after five games sidelined, the Glory will be delighted to once again have the services of the former Manchester United and Celtic star, whose creativity in the centre of the park is not easily replaced. The Irishman's expected comeback can only propel the men in purple to greater things.

Fred - The Heart's captain is already a proven finals performer. Hyundai A-League fans would need little reminder of the Brazilian wizard's incredible display for Victory in the 2007/08 Grand Final, setting up the majority of Archie Thompson's five-goal haul in their record-breaking rout of Adelaide.

Fred might be a couple of years older, and that may be starting to show with his injury record this season, but he's a more complete, experienced player now and his team needs him to play at his best to stay alive.

At the end of the day… It's a cliche, but this really could go either way. While Perth are a good side, they are susceptible to fast counter-attacks and that's one area the Heart can rightly claim to be better at - the pace of Mate Dugandzic and the poise of Eli Babalj can really hurt other teams.

But on the other hand, the Heart's young defence will find it tough to deal with an in-form Shane Smeltz and his crafty strike partner Billy Mehmet. Home ground advantage doesn't really mean much in the Hyundai A-League but it does this time, given the long-haul flight the red and whites will need to take to cross the Nullarbor.

The Glory should be favourites - however, the Heart have already won in Perth this season and will feel more than capable of doing it again. The finals series always throws up the odd surprise, but to call either result a surprise here wouldn't really do justice to how close these two sides are. In the end, it might be the more seasoned campaigners at Perth that gets them over the line.