Aloisi to ring the changes for Phoenix clash

Melbourne Heart FC Head Coach John Aloisi will contend with a noticeably changed line-up for tomorrow evening’s clash against Wellington Phoenix, with four starters from Saturday’s Melbourne derby not making the journey across the Tasman.

Melbourne Heart FC Head Coach John Aloisi will contend with a noticeably changed line-up for tomorrow evening-s clash against Wellington Phoenix, with four starters from Saturday-s Melbourne derby not making the journey across the Tasman. Melbourne Heart FC Head Coach John Aloisi will contend with a noticeably changed line-up for tomorrow evening-s clash against Wellington Phoenix, with four starters from Saturday-s Melbourne derby not making the journey across the Tasman.

Suspended central defensive duo Patrick Gerhardt and Simon Colosimo will miss the match, while Aloisi has decided to give Qantas Socceroos pair Richard Garcia and Aziz Behich a well-deserved rest after a busy period of international duty earlier this month.

All four started in Heart-s last-gasp 2-1 loss against Melbourne Victory in the derby, but Aloisi will be forced to tinker with his starting line-up after his first-choice central defensive pairing picked up their fifth yellow cards of the campaign.

Colosimo and Gerhardt will each serve a mandatory one match suspension, which paves the way for 19-year-old centre back David Vrankovic to return to senior football, while Heart-s Irish defender Steven Gray may debut.

Michael Marrone travelled with Aloisi-s squad this morning and may be the only player to retain his spot in Heart-s back-line, as availability prompts a reshuffle.

Aloisi has once again promoted promising National Youth League pair Jeremy Walker and Sam Mitchinson after the duo impressed against Sydney FC and Perth Glory when called upon, and the later may slot in directly for Behich.

Promoting youth has been a key feature for the Red and White under Aloisi this season, with Vrankovic, Walker and Mitchinson, alongside the injured Benjamin Garuccio, all making their senior debuts this season.

Another NYL player, Ersin Kaya, could also make his debut against the Phoenix, after being included in Aloisi's squad of 16.

Aloisi spoke post-derby of the challenges of immediately readying his side for the Phoenix trip and believes the absence of four key players will give other players, such as Vrankovic and Gray, the chance to prove themselves at the top level.

“It-s a great opportunity for David and Steve,” Aloisi said.

“They-ve been doing very well in training and both are really looking forward to the game.

"It will be an excellent opportunity for them to put their hands up for selection and show that they are competing strongly for starting places with Simon and Patrick."

Vrankovic has featured in six matches this season, but has only been handed one start - against Perth Glory in round three - and the teenager played out the full 90 minutes in that match.

Gray has yet to deputise for the Heart, although he has featured for the National Youth League side and scored in Heart-s 3-2 win over Brisbane Roar on December 9.

Jonatan Germano returned to action for the first time in the 2012/13 season against Victory, while Jason Hoffman could be in the mix to replace Richard Garcia.

While Aloisi admitted disappointment after his side-s loss against Victory, he was heartened by the spirited performance and energetic display by the home side.

But a truer test of character will be to bounce back against Phoenix, who pinched a morale-boosting 1-1 draw with league leaders Central Coast Mariners last week, and return from New Zealand with three points.

“Phoenix are a tough side to play against and they-re always competitive,” Aloisi said.

“[Jeremy] Brockie is the danger man for them and we have to watch him closely.”

Brockie is Phoenix's top scorer and Vrankovic and Gray will need to be at their best to prevent the Heart's back-line from being breached.

Only one point separates Heart from Phoenix and both sides will be eager to move closer to the top six.