Young Hearts ready for Victory veterans

With less than 5,000 tickets remaining for Friday's Melbourne Derby at AAMI Park, excitement levels are high.

With less than 5,000 tickets remaining for Friday's Melbourne Derby at AAMI Park, excitement levels are high.

And why wouldn't they be?

The Melbourne Heart sit third on the Hyundai A-League table, having won five of their last six matches.

They have lost just one of their last nine and along the way have played some exciting football, with youngsters Mate Dugandzic, Aziz Behich and Eli Babalj blending well with the likes of experienced pair Fred and Matt Thompson.

Dugandzic has been particularly good this season, netting five goals in nine Hyundai A-League appearances.

His switch from the Victory caused plenty of controversy but he left in search of regular first-team football, something he has found at Melbourne Heart.

Behich is another young gun, formerly of the Victory, to impress this season while Babalj's strength and ability to hold the ball up has impressed many.

Jason Hoffman will also be keen to put in a good showing on Friday as he makes his 50th Hyundai A-League appearance at the age of 22.

John van 't Schip's side have failed to score just once in their last 21 appearances, with that coming when the Victory held them to a 0-0 draw in October.

It was the second successive draw between the two, with both sides winning one derby each in the first season that they both existed.

That gives the Heart and the Victory a chance to move ahead in the ledger and Mehmet Durakovic's men will take plenty of confidence from the way they dismantled the Wellington Phoenix.

Victory won 3-1 but in truth that scoreline flattered the Phoenix who had goalkeeper Tony Warner to thank for keeping them in the match.

Costa Rican Carlos Hernandez dropped deeper against Wellington and the move paid off to stunning effect as he pulled the strings and showcased his excellent vision and passing ability.

He combined well with Billy Celeski - who will miss Friday's match through suspension - and Archie Thompson was at his energetic best.

Victory fans are still waiting for high-profile signing Harry Kewell to dominate a game and score in open play.

There is no better stage to announce yourself than in a derby and with the experience of playing in Champions League and FA Cup finals, Kewell has more experience than anyone of the big matches.

His partnership with Thompson and Hernandez will have the Heart defence nervous but the likes of Fred, Dugandzic and Babalj also have the potential to do something special.

With a red-hot atmosphere and a terrific game expected, Friday's match is one not to miss.