Preview: Wellington Phoenix v Melbourne Heart

Wellington Phoenix and Melbourne Heart will meet in Round 19 of the 2013-14 A-League season at Westpac Stadium on Sunday, February 16 at 3pm AEDT.

Wellington Phoenix and Melbourne Heart will meet in Round 19 of the 2013-14 A-League season at Westpac Stadium on Sunday, February 16 at 3pm AEDT.


Played 10 - Wins: Phoenix 5, Heart 2, Draws: 3

Previous encounter:

Heart 0 - 1 Phoenix, December 27, 2013


Past five matches

Phoenix: WWLWD

Heart: WWDWL

The Game:

When Wellington travelled to play Melbourne Heart on December 27, the Phoenix had won only once that season, while the red and whites remained winless and hapless.

Ernie Merrick's men took the points at AAMI Park and haven't looked back, while Heart sacked John Aloisi and turned to inaugural coach John van 't Schip.

Both teams have since gone from strength to strength, with Wellington having won six of their last eight and the Heart unbeaten in four, taking maximum points in three of those games.

The Kiwis are now into the finals positions, with Heart only eight points behind them.

This looks like being the moment when the uncanny revival orchestrated by van 't Schip runs out of steam, but we've been saying that for several weeks now and the Heart just keep on winning. An intriguing contest looms at Westpac Stadium.

The big issue:

Phoenix - The coming weeks will determine how much impact this resurgent Wellington can have on the outcome of the 2013-14 A-League.

Up until now it's been a case of Ernie Merrick and his previously unheralded squad proving the early season doubters wrong with some much improved performances.

But as the wins keep piling up at home and away, the prospect of a meaningful finals campaign and possibly even a title challenge looks more and more likely.

A month-and-a-half ago dispatching a visiting Heart at the Cake Tin would have been a simple task for the Kiwis, but the red and whites' own revival now makes this a far more searching examination for the hosts.

Heart - Long-awaited win? Check. Successive victories? Check. Earning all three points 'away from home'? Check. Sort of.

John van 't Schip's side finally won outside Victoria by beating Perth Glory in Albury on Sunday, but they are still waiting for a genuine triumph on the road.

The next opportunity will arrive across the Tasman this weekend. If Heart can break down that barrier, who knows where their improbable resurgence can take them?

The game breaker:

Patrick Kisnorbo - Believe it or not, the experienced centre-back could prove the difference in New Zealand's North Island this weekend.

The 32-year-old has been a consistent performer for Heart in recent weeks, and even weighed in with the opening goal against the Glory last Sunday.

The visitors can expect to have a tough time keeping the Phoenix's mobile, threatening forwards at bay, and Kisnorbo will need to produce another commanding display if van 't Schip's side are to earn a positive result.