Heart will need plenty of ticker against Roar on Sunday. Image courtesy of couriermail.com.au
Despite the 1-0 loss to Newcastle at Suncorp Stadium last Sunday, Brisbane maintained a seven-point buffer at the top of the A-League table. There was no real damage done, but it’s how the premiership front-runner responds which is important. The men in orange were beaten by an out-of-form Newcastle for the third time this season and can’t afford to let lesser sides dent their reputation, especially at home. This week, they front a rejuvenated Melbourne Heart , brimming with confidence even though it sits at the foot of the ladder.
In recent weeks, inspired Heart players have swept all before them – unbeaten in their last five and on a three-match winning streak. The purple patch started with a 3-1 victory over the Jets on January 17 and culminated with a 5-0 thrashing of Phoenix in Wellington last round. In the five-game run, which is allowing John van’t Schip’s charges to dream of avoiding the wooden-spoon, they have found the net 14 times. They’ve also never failed to score at home against Brisbane.
The last time these two sides met was in round four when Brisbane was backing up after its first loss of the season. On that day, Mike Mulvey’s men soared at Suncorp 3-0 , with Henrique slotting a double and captain Matt Smith also scoring. In fact, the two-time champions haven’t lost consecutive matches this campaign; thumping Heart 3-0, the Wanderers 3-1 and Sydney FC 5-2 the week after going down, while the other rebound result was a 0-0 draw with Glory in Perth. Despite earning 20 points (6 wins, 2 draws, 2 losses) on the road this season, Roar hasn’t won in its last three visits to at AAMI Stadium. However, it has managed to find the net at least once every trip. Brisbane is still the best defensive team, conceding a paltry 17 goals in 19 matches.
Last week, Roar enjoyed 71.5 per cent ball possession and 11 corners - the highest it’s had in a match this season. But alas, it couldn’t convert the avalanche of possession into points and Thomas Broich’s 100th A-League appearance ended in disappointment. A little Heart creativity will be missing with Harry Kewell’s return from a toe injury still a week away. Brisbane’s midfield will be strengthened by the return of Liam Miller from suspension and Matt McKay is better for his first run in a month after a frustrating foot injury.
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