Round 20 Preview: Melbourne Heart vs. Brisbane Roar

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Round 20 sees Brisbane play their third last away game of the regular season on Sunday with a trip to improving cellar-dwellers Melbourne Heart. Despite being on the bottom of the table the Heart are a team on the rise under the stewardship of manager John van’t Schip having lost just once since his arrival at the turn of the year. Brisbane have had the wood over the Heart historically and in recent times winning six of the previous ten encounters, including the previous two, however not in Melbourne. On four previous trips to the Victorian capital to face the Heart, Brisbane have just the one victory, and that was in season where Brisbane lost just once to win the double.

Last week Brisbane were held at home by a compact, counter attacking Newcastle side who continued their inexplicable record of success in Brisbane. However despite the Jets strategy, Brisbane were off their games last weekend, with precious few clear cut opportunities for Broich, Berisha and co. The midfield wasn’t functioning as we’ve come to expect with Lustica and Ferreira slow on the ball, and not providing the option in an attacking sense around the edge of the box often enough. To that end having Miller and McKay back will be a big boost for the side.

Heart meanwhile are coming off their best performance of the season with a 5-0 demolition against the Phoenix in Wellington. Reported Brisbane target for next season David Williams netted a hat trick while Orlando Engelaar opened his goal scoring account. While there’s no doubt it was an off day for the Phoenix, Heart have been vastly improved in recent weeks picking up results and playing with much more confidence. One interesting change that van’t Schip made last week was to bring Patrick Gerhardt into a defensive midfield role in order to limit the effectiveness of Carlos Hernandez, a plan which seemed to work reasonably well. It will be interesting to see if it’s something they look to try again, possibly in a man marking role on Broich if he plays central.

Recent form:
Brisbane: LDWWD
Melbourne: WWWDW

Top Scorer:
Brisbane: Besart Berisha (8)
Melbourne:
David Williams (9)

Brisbane:
Brisbane welcome back key midfield duo Liam Miller and Matt McKay and both are expected to start today. McKay made his return last week from an ankle off the bench last week against Newcastle, meanwhile Miller missed that Newcastle game due to a 1 game ban for accruing 5 yellow cards. After struggling to assert any influence over the game in the middle of the park last week, Steven Lustica and Diogo Ferreira will likely make way for the duo. Infact the starting XI and substitutes were more or less flagged yesterday with Lustica, Brown and Hingert all playing 90 minutes in the youth team. Ferreira seems to have won favour as the back-up midfielder role over the recently signed Lustica.

Expected Brisbane XI: Theo, Franjic, North, Smith, Stefanutto, Miller, Brattan, McKay, Petratos, Broich, Berisha.
Substitutes: Acton, Donachie, Ferreira, Henrique, Solórzano.
Omitted: Brown, Lustica.

Melbourne:
The Heart will be coming into this game flying and full of confidence following their outstanding 5-0 win over Wellington last week across the Tasman. They should be stronger again this week with the availability of utility Jonatan Germano again, a player who has made a habit of scoring against Brisbane in the past. Like Brisbane, they’ve flagged their intentions by playing Michael Mifsud and Luke O’Dea in the youth league yesterday, which should lead to an unchanged starting XI, with Germano replacing O’Dea on the bench.

Expected Melbourne XI: Redmayne, Hoffman, Wielaert, Kisnorbo, Behich, Engelaar, Gerhardt, Murdocca, Dugandzic, Ramsay, Williams.
Substitutes: Velaphi, Germano, Garuccio, Mauk, Kalmar.
Omitted: Mifsud, O’Dea.

This season:
Round 4: Brisbane Roar (Henrique 48’, 65’, Smith 77’) 3-0 Melbourne Heart

The only meeting between these sides in a competitive game was so long ago that it’s borderline insignificant given the changes to the Heart since that day. On that day despite the emphatic score-line the Heart created more than enough chances to get a goal and were more than competitive, especially in the first half before Brisbane raised their performance and ran over the top of them. Incidentally 3-0 was also the score in a pre-season trial in Lismore for the Copa d’Fozz (Craig Foster Cup); this is a different Melbourne Heart however.

Tale of the tape vs. Melbourne Heart:
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Kick-off this afternoon is from 4.00pm Queensland time, and the game can be seen live on Fox Sports or on ABC Grandstand radio. The game also unfortunately clashes with the W-League Grand Final, which can be seen on ABC1 from 3.00pm.

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