Preview: Melbourne Heart
The little brother of Victory will be once again looking to finish ahead of their cross town rivals. New coach John Aloisi will find the going very tough in this competitive league and must get positive early results to bring much needed fans through the turnstiles. Under their former manager, the club played a very attractive game, but struggled to consistently find the back of the net; will the same playing style remain at the club?
Much has been said of the club’s youth policy of selling off their young stars to break even financially, combined with a group of veterans holding down key positions in the starting line up.
PREDICTION: 6th. Sink or swim for the club as they tread water around the bottom region of the finals places. Much will depend on the fitness of Captain Fred, and the form of keeper Clint Bolton.
BEST FINISH: 6th in 2011/12.
THE SIGNING: Former Hull City midfielder Richard Garcia. The midfielder will add an extra dimension to the Heart midfield, and with his hard work and technical ability, don’t be shocked to see Garcia’s name in future Socceroos squads.
THE LOSS: Curtis Good, Brendan Hammil and Eli Babalj have all left the Heart for bigger and brighter pastures abroad. All will be big losses for the Heart, but the financial rewards will allow the club to build on the hard work done over the last two years.
THE STAR: Fred. The Brazilian was a stand out last year, and don’t expect anything less this season. A mid season injury staggered the Heart season after finding themselves second just after Christmas. A fit Fred will ensure back to back finals campaigns for the sometimes forgotten Melbourne team.
THE X FACTOR: Croatian striker Josip Tadic. If you look at his track record you have to shake your head and ask why the club would bother signing him, but there must be a reason why. Expect Tadic to start off his A-League campaign slowly as he adjusts to the differences of the league, but if Tadic can find the back of the net consistently his signing will be justified.
OFF THE PITCH: It’s all about numbers. Last year crowd figures were OK, but inflated due to hosting two of the three Melbourne derbies. Hosting only one this year, and having only one home game against Sydney (Del Piero factor), will have the bean counters very nervous out at La Trobe.
GOLDEN BOOT: On preseason form, Dylan Macallister wins in a canter – but we all know what preseason form counts for. Macallister should win the golden boot at the Heart, but expect goals to come from various players during the 27 game season.
THE MATCH: The Christmas Derby against the Victory. The only derby to be hosted by the premier venue in the league, AAMI Park. All football fans should put December 22, 2012 in their diaries.
THE START: Not a bad start for the Heart, as they face Victory first up in what should be an action packed derby. Heart then play host to Wellington in a game they should win, before flying to Perth to face the Glory. A home game against Central Coast followed by a trip to new boys Western Sydney should see them start the season well.