The eleventh Melbourne derby will end either the four-game winning streak of Heart or Victory’s two wins in a row.
Melbourne Heart have the chance to complete a two-month makeover and step off the A-League’s bottom rung in Saturday night’s Melbourne derby.
Stuck to the A-League floor for four months, Heart have surged under John van `t Schip, including wins from their last four outings.
Last week, their scalp was league leaders Brisbane Roar but this week the prize that awaits Heart is both bragging rights and the chance to not be last.
It’s a mouth-watering proposition, and van `t Schip can taste it.
“I love those games, they’re special. Everyone says all games are equal… I don’t think so,” he said.
“The players are looking sharp and we will need that for sure as it’s a massive game.”
The eleventh Melbourne derby is the last before Heart’s Manchester City owners shake up the club in the off-season.
It could also be the last for soon to be out-of-contract Heart captain Harry Kewell, who rejoined training this week after a toe injury but is likely to be named on the bench at best.
“We’ll decide that tomorrow,” said van `t Schip.
“It’s good to have him back, he’s important for the group, he’s important with his experience. It can lift the game and lift other players.”
Victory also carry strong form into the AAMI Park derby.
Their sole blip over the past three weeks was a 4-2 loss – after leading 2-0 – in their midweek Asian Champions League (ACL) match against Guangzhou Evergrande, a team described as the “Real Madrid of Asia”.
Coach Kevin Muscat has seen his side win their last three games in which they’ve fallen behind, but giving away a goal to the A-League’s form team would be folly.
A brief 40 minute run on the training track satisfied Muscat on Friday morning, after touching down back from China late on Thursday.
“It’s the perfect game to come back to,” he said.
“Travel, fatigue and all that sort of thing, it won’t count for anything else tomorrow night.”
Where the match could be decided is the necessary reshuffling for both sides with key players missing.
Heart defenders Patrick Gerhardt and Aziz Behich will also miss with suspension, though they will have veteran Rob Wielaert back.
The Victory will be without central defenders Pablo Contreras (suspended) and Adrian Leijer (facial fractures).
Muscat will make a last-minute check on Socceroo Tom Rogic, who missed the ACL trip with a sprained ankle, before deciding whether to start him.
Despite their attacking intentions costing them at the other end – Victory haven’t kept a clean sheet in 12 matches and edged Adelaide 4-3 last weekend – Muscat said he wasn’t for changing his approach.
“Hopefully it’ll be another entertaining game, I said that before the Adelaide game… I know from our part, there’ll be no change,” Muscat said.