John Aloisi is eyeing the possibility of the Melbourne derby to start Heart’s flailing season with Harry Kewell in his starting lineup again.
Harry Kewell will return to Melbourne Heart’s starting lineup on Saturday for a Melbourne A-League derby dominated by the opposing managers.
In the blue corner for the first time is Kevin Muscat, eager to establish a commanding derby record no Victory manager has mustered.
And in the red corner is John Aloisi, dancing a little too closely along the coaching precipice with no wins in 15.
Aloisi can finally call on captain Kewell to take the toss – his first start since the last derby which finished 0-0 – but in doing so erases another excuse not to snap his winless streak.
Despite the grim record that has Heart bottom of the league, the Heart don’t feel like a club about to sack the coach.
Their group has never had the broken morale and bust-ups that cost Alastair Edwards his job at Perth Glory.
Such is the feeling to get things right at Heart that Aloisi revealed Kewell apologised to him after his fluffed penalty against Sydney FC last week.
“A player doesn’t want to miss goals for the team. But things happen like that in football,” Aloisi said, eyeing the possibilities that came with the derby.
“Derbies, doesn’t matter what form you’re in.
“Go back to our first year in the league when we lost 4-0 to Brisbane and then we played the first ever derby and we ended up winning.”
Aloisi scored on that day for the Heart playing against Muscat, who has his own returning Socceroo to call upon on Saturday night.
Archie Thompson is fit after missing two weeks with a hamstring injury and will most likely replace Connor Pain.
“He’s worried every defence he’s played against,” Muscat said.
Muscat denied preparing his team differently for the occasion but said his team were “super motivated” for the encounter.
“We’ll be up for this game just as we have been every other one and every other game going forward as well.”
He batted away chances to engage with Aloisi.
“Yeah, not interested to be honest. John’s got his team to worry about and I’ve got a group that’s super motivated,” he said.
“We’ve analysed them and the way they play and tactically prepared accordingly.”
The remaining selection question is who Aloisi brings to the bench to accommodate Kewell, with Iain Ramsay a likely contender.
The match at AAMI Park, which is likely to sell out with less than 2000 tickets remaining on Friday, has brought one disappointment for Aloisi: the fact he can’t be out there.
“I don’t miss playing football that much because my knees gave way on me but these are the games that I do miss,” he said.
“I love playing in these big games and I know my players do too.”