As Melbourne Heart contemplate the sixth edition of the highly anticipated Melbourne derby, they do so with a great deal of trepidation.
As Melbourne Heart contemplate the sixth edition of the highly anticipated Melbourne derby, they do so with a great deal of trepidation. The horror show in Wellington compounded a six game winless streak that has seen Heart go into free fall from seemingly waltzing into the playoffs to suddenly struggling to stay in them.
John van-t Schip did little to hide his frustration with his players, who he demanded “wake up” ahead of the now must-win clash against fierce rivals, Melbourne Victory. This derby provides a much different challenge to the last one though. Heart entered the last encounter as clear favourites. In a fantastic moment of form, everything seemed to be going right for the Heart, whilst Victory watched on hopelessly, throwing points away almost at will.
Not much has changed for Victory, with last week-s capitulation at the hands of Sydney sure to deal another crushing blow to the confidence of the blue half of Melbourne, but they will look at Heart as a team that are there for the taking. To be fair, it-s not an unfair view at this current point in time. The Heart look a despondent outfit on current form, and Victory, for all their problems, will certainly be sensing blood in the water.
Given the Heart have had to bid goodbye to Jason Hoffman, Mate Dugandzic and Aziz Behich who depart the club for Olyroos duty, the task against Melbourne Victory has become somewhat more complicated. Matthew Thompson-s injury cloud provides another headache for the manager to contend with.
It would seem that the excuses are presenting themselves, but if Melbourne Heart want to be taken seriously as a team worthy of a place in the A-League finals, there will come a time where the excuses have to end and the result start to change. Against Melbourne Victory, even with all the problems Heart face, there will be no better opportunity to turn this rut of form around.
That might seem an odd thing to say, but it is in these games that form can so often count for so little. It doesn-t matter how the Heart do it, whether it be on raw emotion or sheer desperation, all that matters here is winning. Achieve that, and all of a sudden, a month and a half of poor form is almost instantly forgotten. The outlook is once again shiny, and the players win back all that confidence that is so vital to performing well.
In that way, it would seem that, for once, Melbourne Victory and Melbourne Heart share something in common other than AAMI Park. That is desperation for three points that will undoubtedly go a long way to defining the rest of this season for better or worse. For Victory, it is a chance at one last push for finals football, for the Heart, it is a chance to recover the confidence and form that has long since deserted them.
The question is, who wants it more?
Stay tuned Melbourne; this is going to be massive.
Follow Matthew on Twitter @mg91.