Preview: Melbourne Heart v Melbourne Victory

Melbourne Heart and Melbourne Victory will meet in Round 21 of the A-League at AAMI Park on Saturday, March 1 at 7.45pm AEDT.

Melbourne Heart and Melbourne Victory will meet in Round 21 of the A-League at AAMI Park on Saturday, March 1 at 7.45pm AEDT.


Played 11 - Wins: Heart 3, Victory 4, Draws: 4

Previous encounter:

Heart 1-3 Victory, December 21, 2013


Past five matches

Heart: WWWWD

Victory: LWWDL

The Game:

It is not often that a team on the bottom of the ladder would be considered favourites heading into a clash with the third-placed side but that is exactly the case ahead of the third Melbourne derby of the A-League season.

Melbourne Heart have turned their form around since midway through January, winning five and drawing one of their past six games.

With John van 't Schip providing superior tactical knowledge from the bench than previous head coach John Aloisi and, crucially, marquee midfielder Orlando Engelaar hitting top form, Heart are making an improbable charge to the finals.

For Melbourne Victory, last week's pulsating 4-3 win over Adelaide United took them two points clear in third position and kept the pressure on second-placed Western Sydney Wanderers but the Big V were humbled in the AFC Champions League (ACL) on Wednesday, going down 4-2 to reigning champions Guangzhou Evergrande.

Victory will have little time to recover after returning from China before they have to take on Heart on Saturday night.

The big issue:

Heart - The A-League's salary cap ensures the competition is both very even and unpredictable.

In the league's nine seasons, it has been incredibly difficult for club's to maintain runs of form for much longer than a month.

Can Heart buck that trend to make the finals? Heart have not beaten Victory in a derby in their past four attempts and with six games unbeaten, the Red and Whites seem due for a loss.

Van 't Schip will have to refocus his side if they are to overcome their rivals this week.

Victory - Can Kevin Muscat's Victory side score enough goals to make up for their leaky defence?

The Big V have not kept a clean sheet since December and have let in seven goals in their past two matches.

With Heart having scored an average of 2.5 goals per game during their unbeaten run, Victory goalkeeper Nathan Coe, who has not started 2014 in good form, is sure to be tested in the derby.

The hopes of Muscat's men may rest on the likes of James Troisi and Gui Finkler to score even more at the other end.

The game breaker:

Orlando Engelaar - How much does Aloisi wish the towering Dutch midfielder had been fit all season?

Engelaar has transformed the Heart, playing a key role in their destruction of Wellington Phoenix a fortnight ago with a goal and an assist, while he also scored the winner versus Brisbane Roar in Round 20.

If the 34-year-old had not broken his leg in pre-season and missed the first 14 rounds, Heart might already be in the top six and Aloisi might still be head coach.