While the underdog label has its drawbacks, Melbourne Heart FC Head Coach John Aloisi has embraced the tag ahead of tomorrow’s enticing Melbourne Derby against its fierce city rival.
While the underdog label has its drawbacks, Melbourne Heart FC Head Coach John Aloisi has embraced the tag ahead of tomorrow-s enticing Melbourne Derby against its fierce city rival.
With the third derby installment against Melbourne Victory evenly poised - each team boasts a 2-1 derby win on its opponent-s home soil - Heart-s real motivation not only arises from its quest for a second consecutive finals berth, but in its ability to rebound from a setback in energetic fashion.
While Heart lies in sixth place with 21 points, one adrift of Newcastle Jets, Aloisi needs only to jog the memory bank to revisit the Red and White-s effervescent derby form when it has been supposedly down and out.
After last week-s disappointing 1-0 loss against a spirited Western Sydney Wanderers at Parramatta Stadium, a performance Aloisi admits was less than desirable, the former Heart striker, who made a meaningful impact on the pitch with three derby goals, can sense his side are ready to seize the occasion.
“I spoke [to his players] about how well we seem to perform in derbies... especially after bad games and we had a terrible game last week," Aloisi said.
"Last time we played Victory, we played [Central Coast] Mariners the week before and that was a bad game, and I still remember the first derby where we lost to Brisbane 4-0, and we ended up beating Victory, so they're things that will spur the players on.”
While Heart-s performance could not be faulted in the previous derby, it was undone by a late Archie Thompson goal at AAMI Park.
But Aloisi believes his team had done enough in that match to ruffle Victory-s feathers. “No one expects us to win, except us,” Aloisi said.
“I don-t have to remind you what Melbourne Heart players are like in derbies; they-re always up for it.
“We want to win for our supporters because it-s important for them as much as it is for us.”
While Heart were hit earlier in the week by the departure of Aziz Behich to Turkish Super Lig side Bursaspor and Vince Grella to retirement, Aloisi is adamant his side, which could include youngsters Ben Garuccio, Sam Mitchinson, Jeremy Walker and Paolo Retre, can rattle its opponents at Etihad Stadium.
The recent return of Eli Babalj is another aspect that has added potency to Heart-s attack and the Red and White-s all-time top scorer is eager to make an immediate impact in Melbourne.
“[It-s] great to have him back, he looks hungry and sharp this week in training, and he wants to play football,” Aloisi said.
"We had a good time with Eli here in the two years that we had him and we're hoping for more of the same.
“He loves working hard in training and he-s got a lot of talent.”