A-League: Melbourne Heart v Perth Glory
Played: 12, Wins: Heart 3, Glory 6, Draws: 3
Glory 3-0 Heart, Friday January 10 2014
Past five matches:
Believe it or not, both teams go into this game in relatively good form. Yes, even Melbourne Heart. There haven't been too many times in the last 12 months when you've been able to say that about the team in red and white. John van 't Schip's side have only lost once in their last five matches, and that defeat came away to this week's opponents, the Glory. Other than that they have managed credible draws away to Central Coast and Adelaide, while beating the Newcastle Jets and Sydney FC at their AAMI Park home.
Perth meanwhile still struggle on the road, having lost 3-1 at Western Sydney late last month, but they did notch an away win over the Jets on January 4, and have also taken a point off league leaders Brisbane Roar and Melbourne Victory at nib Stadium. There's plenty of room for improvement from Kenny Lowe's side, and notching another win over the Heart on what is effectively neutral territory in Albury is well within their capabilities.
The big issue:
Heart – The wins have to keep coming if Heart are to achieve the (almost) impossible and earn a finals berth. Still rooted to the foot of the table, Van 't Schip's team are eight points behind Newcastle and nine off Adelaide and Perth, who sit level on 21 points in sixth and seventh spot respectively. After the 'home' game against Glory, Heart must travel to take on a resurgent Wellington Phoenix, before games against league leaders Brisbane Roar and arch-rivals Melbourne Victory. A clash with poor travellers Perth in regional New South Wales is by far the most winnable fixture of that tough run.
Glory – Just as the Heart may sniff a good opportunity to beat Perth, the Glory themselves must seize this chance to overcome their away day blues. Lowe's side have only that one win over the Jets to show for their efforts on the road this season, and it doesn't get any easier in the weeks ahead, with away matches against Sydney FC, Brisbane Roar, Wellington Phoenix and Western Sydney to follow during February and March. If they can come away from Albury with all three points, at least that will give them a measure of confidence going into the difficult encounters that await.
The game breaker:
Jonatan Germano - The fit-again Argentine midfielder started his first match this season at home to Sydney FC last Friday and produced an excellent performance, highlighting how much Heart have missed his combination of skill and steel. With Orlando Engelaar suspended for the match against Perth, it will fall to Germano and Massimo Murdocca to try and win the midfield battle.
Prediction: Melbourne Heart 1-1 Perth Glory
We're not sure Heart's recent revival will continue uninterrupted, with Van 't Schip's previously fragile outfit surely due for a minor slip-up soon. The Glory are no great shakes when they hit the road, although perhaps with fresh talent in the form of Nebojsa Marinkovic and Darvydas Sernas, the latter a goal-scoring hero on debut against Victory, they may now have what it takes to do some damage outside WA. Rostyn Griffiths could be involved for Perth, but will need time to get back up to speed. If you take into account the intense heat expected in Albury this weekend, this one has 'draw' written all over it.