Starting this Sunday, Melbourne’s ‘red’ team meet Perth Glory, the A-League’s runaway leaders Central Coast Mariners on Wednesday and reigning champions, Brisbane Roar the following Saturday.
Last weekend the team had a bruising encounter against the basement battlers, Gold Coast United – just scraping through with a 1-1 draw in what Heart coach, John van’t Schip, described as a “lucky escape” for his side.
Sitting equal second on the A-League ladder with Brisbane Roar on 25 points, Melbourne Heart is keen to make up for last weekend’s lapse in concentration against an improving Perth Glory side (equal 5th on 18 points) as well as Central Coast and Brisbane Roar, who van’t Schip describes as the best teams in the A-League.
“They are far more steady teams [than Melbourne Heart],” said van’t Schip.
“Brisbane plays the best football in the competition and Central Coast is very functional, very good in every department and getting better all the time.”
By contrast, van’t Schip says with disarming honesty that his own side is still developing.
“We’re not that far advanced yet. We have to learn to keep the ball longer, read a game together, have more possession and find time to take breath when our team mates need it. We have to learn to control the game,” he said.
Despite captain and ‘playmaker’, Brazilian Fred, likely to be out of the equation for a few weeks with an injury picked up last weekend, Melbourne Heart has plenty of other playing talent with a blend of experience and youth to get the business done on the field. Players to watch include Matt Thompson, evergreen goalkeeper Clint Bolton and emerging youngster Eli Bablj, Aziz Behich and Mate Dugandzic.
Three games in six days is a tough ask for any team especially when the opposition includes the top two teams in the competition.
But with the three matches expected to play a decisive role in whether Melbourne Heart makes the A-League finals, the small club with the big heart is aiming for 3/3 and all 9 points on offer.
- Melbourne Heart v Perth Glory, Sunday 15 January, 4.00pm, AAMI Stadium
- Melbourne Heart v Central Coast Mariners, Wednesday 18 January, 7.30pm, AAMI Stadium
- Melbourne Heart v Brisbane Roar, Saturday 21 January, 7.45pm, AAMI Stadium