It’s been the side’s home form which has kept the Heart in the finals race for most of the season and they will need to rediscover their best if they are any chance of toppling Western Sydney.
Date: Saturday, March 16, 2013
Kick-off: 5.30pm AEDT
Venue: AAMI Park Melbourne
Played: 2 – Wins: Heart 0, Wanderers 2
Wanderers 1-0 Heart, January 26, 2013
Past five matches:
The Heart’s top six hopes took a severe blow on Monday night with a rare home defeat at the hands of Adelaide United. It’s been the side’s home form which has kept the Heart in the finals race for most of the season and they will need to rediscover their best if they are any chance of toppling Western Sydney.
The Wanderers put one hand on the Premiers’ Plate last weekend with a scrappy 2-1 win over Wellington. Tony Popovic’s side are now five points clear at the top with just three games remaining. With their season on the line, Heart boss John Aloisi will need to get his starting XI right, with skipper Fred a strong chance to start after coming off the bench over the last few weeks. Wanderers marquee man Shinji Ono tweaked his hamstring against the Phoenix and is unlikely to be risked in this clash. The Wanderers have won both previous meetings between the two clubs, with Ono’s late penalty handing them a 1-0 win in the most recent clash in January.
The Big Issue:
Heart – The goals have begun to dry up for the Heart and it looks like costing them a finals berth. Aloisi’s troops have had no trouble creating chances – as they did regularly against the Reds – but were made to pay not being clinical enough in front of goal. The Wanderers’ water-tight defence won’t give them too many clear-cut chances so the home side will need to have their shooting boots on if they are to pull off an upset.
Wanderers – The competition new-boys created an A-League record last weekend, notching their ninth straight victory. It was another great achievement in what’s been a stunning debut campaign for the club. There was evidence in their performance last weekend of a few nerves in trying to break the record and it will come as a great relief to the players that they got the job done. But just like with Brisbane Roar when they broke the record for most game unbeaten last season – beware of a letdown.
The Game Breaker:
Youssouf Hersi – The Ethiopian born flyer could be the Wanderers’ lucky charm. While the side have won nine straight games, Hersi’s winning streak stands 14 matches. With Ono likely to be rested for this match, Hersi’s pace and trickery down the right will be even more important for the visitors.
Prediction: Heart 1-1 Wanderers
It’s cup final time for the Heart so expect them to come out blazing against the league leaders. While the Heart are back in ninth place, they are just three points behind fifth placed Sydney FC and are still well in the hunt for a finals berth. And while the Wanderers have been in ominous form over the last few months, there may be no better time to face them. With Ono unlikely to play and with one eye possibly on next weekend’s Sydney derby, the Wanderers formidable outfit could just be a tad vulnerable.