Preview: Perth Glory v Melbourne Heart

These two sides are chalk and cheese in terms of their form heading into this encounter.

Date: Saturday, 17 December 2011 Kick-off: 7:00pm AWST, 10:00pm (AEDT), Venue: nib Stadium

Head-to-head Played 4: Wins: Perth Glory 1, Melbourne Heart 0, Draws: 3

Previous encounter Perth Glory 2, Melbourne Heart 1, AAMI Park, October 2011

History: After three consecutive draws in this fixture last season, these two sides finally fought out a result in the second week of the current campaign. Perth striker Shane Smeltz scored both goals, the first being a very classy header from an exceptional Liam Miller cross.

Form: Past five matches: Perth Glory: LDLWL Melbourne Heart: WWLWW

These two sides are chalk and cheese in terms of their form heading into this encounter. Glory may have taken the points in the first clash this season, but since winning their first three matches, have only managed to claim a draw with Melbourne Victory and a 2-0 win over Gold Coast in their most recent home match. As a result, they have dropped from second on the table to sixth.

Melbourne Heart on the other hand, have gone in the other direction, losing just one match in their last eight. Even that result, a 3-1 defeat by Central Coast, could have gone either way as Heart were on the wrong end of some controversial refereeing decisions.

If you're only as good as your last game, though, the Heart are championship material after knocking off Brisbane Roar at home in a 2-1 result, the first time any side's taken the points at Suncorp Stadium since January 16 2010.

Match Committee: Aside from long-term injury victims Scott Neville (knee) and Chris Coyne (Achilles), the Glory are rapidly getting a full roster back out on the park. Travis Dodd returned from a month on the sidelines with a hamstring injury in the National Youth League last weekend and looked pretty good in a 58-minute spell. Danny Vukovic will also play after having some heel issues against Wellington last weekend.

Heart, meanwhile, are in a similar boat, with just Nick Kalmar (back) and Kliment Taseski (foot) on the sidelines.

Danger men: Billy Mehmet - He hasn't scored a goal since the opening game of the season, but the Irishman is sure to be fired up after being used off the bench last weekend as Ian Ferguson opted for the 4-2-3-1 the side trained with for much of the summer, before Mehmet's arrival saw them move to a traditional 4-4-2.

Eli Babalj - Just 19 years old but the towering Babalj is a major cog in the Heart machine as he's the one distributing the ball up forward to the fleet-footed strikers. Last week, though, Babalj also pulled three Roar defenders out of position, allowing Jonatan Germano to score the opening goal before adding one himself. Watch out for Clint Bolton too as the goalkeeper is making his 448th national league appearance, to be third on the Australian all-time list.

At the end of the day… Perth Glory are entering a pivotal phase of their season over Christmas where they have to make the most of three home games from the next four.

However, all three are against the current top three sides, starting with third-placed Heart on Saturday and followed by Central Coast (2nd, December 23) and Brisbane Roar (1st, January 4), either side of a tough trip to Newcastle on New Year's Eve. The Glory have only lost once at home this season, but taking nine points against these opponents will be a tough ask.

However, the hosts do have winning form against Heart on their side, even if the fortunes of both sides have taken convergent paths since Week 2. Heart are playing a fluid system that's a little similar to the Roar's.

With Brisbane having taken Perth apart 4-0, this is good news for the Melbourne men, but Heart still have to contend with the fact it's their second tough road trip in a week for a young side. More so, will they suffer a slump after beating the Roar, like Sydney did last weekend?

Heart are still playing a good brand of football, but don't completely dismiss the sleeping giant that is Shane Smeltz from waking up and having some influence.