While a month ago Brisbane Roar would be licking their lips ahead of the Melbourne Heart away day, Heart’s late-season form could silence the Roar.
The A-League’s best team and most in-form team clash at AAMI Park on Sunday night as Melbourne Heart aim to keep their improbable finals dream alive.
Heart’s stunning revival, built largely on the shoulders of David Williams, will be tested by the arrival of leaders Brisbane Roar.
Coach John van `t Schip’s side have ended two longstanding hoodoos – earning their first interstate win since 2011 (albeit a home game in Albury) and a maiden win in New Zealand last weekend.
Starting the year managerless and with just four points in the bank, Heart’s four wins in five games have them within touching distance of leaving last place behind.
However, Roar are an undoubted step up in class for Heart – whose four recent wins have come against the clubs from 6th to 9th on the table.
Always one to play down successes, coach John van `t Schip was nonplussed on the reasons behind Heart’s hot streak.
“It’s confidence. It’s the results. But you have to keep on working hard, believing in the things we are doing,” he said.
If Heart are to continue their run, they’d be wise to keep giving the ball to Williams.
Williams’ hat-trick – the club’s first – in the 5-0 triumph over Wellington came off the back of late winners against both Sydney FC and Perth Glory, ensuring Heart have not missed the struggling Harry Kewell.
“With his talent, he can bring a lot more. I have a lot of trust in him,” van `t Schip said.
Kewell will miss again with a toe injury, while fit-again Jonatan Germano will come into contention.
Against the league’s top scorers, Heart should pair their two Patricks, Kisnorbo and Gerhardt, in central defence with Rob Wielaert suspended.
Quizzed how he planned to halt the Roar, van `t Schip offered a startling response.
“You’re not going to stop them… you just have to try and make it difficult for them,” he said.
“They’re a team that can outplay almost every opponent team in the league. We have to make sure we’re prepared.”
Mike Mulvey’s side are the undisputed away specialists – picking up more than half their points on the road – and will be boosted by the return of Socceroo Matt McKay (injury) and Liam Miller (suspension).
Roar were uncharacteristically wasteful in front of goal in a 1-0 loss to their bogey side Newcastle Jets last weekend and will be keen to make amends.
The second opponent for the two teams will be the AAMI Park surface, which has been battered by two sold-out Bruce Springsteen concerts, a decent splash of Melbourne rain and Victory’s match on Saturday night.