The loss of key midfielder Jonatan Germano and Club captain Fred has failed to dampen the spirits of Melbourne Heart FC’s Head Coach John Aloisi as he prepares his side for a last-gasp shot at a top six berth.
The loss of key midfielder Jonatan Germano and Club captain Fred has failed to dampen the spirits of Melbourne Heart FC-s Head Coach John Aloisi as he prepares his side for a last-gasp shot at a top six berth.
The South American pair were injury casualties in training this week, but Aloisi is confident his side-s recent record against Brisbane Roar, coupled with the team-s desire to squeeze into the top six, is enough motivation ahead of the Red and White-s trip to the Sunshine State.
While space is tight between the bottom five sides, Aloisi recognises three points is vital for Heart when his side challenges Roar at Suncorp Stadium on Sunday afternoon.
But if recent results, and performances, against the Roar are anything to go by - Heart remains unbeaten in the past five encounters between the two sides - Sunday's result could prove a catalyst for Heart to make a late finals surge.
Heart has had the wood over Roar in the team's previous two encounters this season, with the Red and White emerging 4-1 and 3-2 winners at AAMI Park.
Versatile Argentine midfielder Germano has been ruled out for Sunday-s clash with a hamstring strain, while inspirational Brazilian Fred is likely to be sidelined for the team-s final two matches with a quad injury.
Despite the disappointment of losing the duo, Aloisi is confident his side has enough depth to cover for those two loses.
“We've worked well this week,” Aloisi said.
“We've worked on the way Brisbane play a little bit today and we seem to match up really well against them.
“It suits us to play against Brisbane, so that gives us confidence to go up there and put in a good performance."
Just four points separate fifth-placed Sydney FC and bottom-placed Wellington Phoenix and the possibility of snatching a spot in the Hyundai A-League Finals Series remains genuine for those teams sandwiched between the Sky Blues and the cellar dwellers.
With Sydney facing a difficult challenge against Western Sydney Wanderers tomorrow night and with Newcastle Jets and Wellington taking a weekend off, the importance of Sunday-s match for Heart and Roar, is indisputable.
“It-s really important; we don-t want to look back and say, well we can finish last… we want to look back and say we-ve finished fifth, but it-s important that we get good results these last two games, that-s the most important thing," Aloisi said.
“We still think that we can make finals and we still believe that we can go to Brisbane and win and I think that-s important that they players believe that."
With Fred and Germano joining the suspended Simon Colosimo and the unavailable Patrick Gerhardt (international duty) on the 'outs' list, Aloisi will be forced into a reshuffle.
“We [will] shuffle a couple of players around; not too many because we don-t want to play players out of position and then a few boys get another opportunity to play and then hopefully they-ll do well and step up,” Aloisi said.
Midfielders Marcel Meeuwis, Jason Hoffman and Nick Kalmar - who is set for his 50th A-League appearance against Roar - will fight to join Matt Thompson in midfield, with Aloisi has plenty of attacking options in Richard Garcia, David Williams, Eli Babalj, Josip Tadic and Golgol Mebrahtu.
“We still think that we have a good enough eleven to go out there and win,” Aloisi said.
“With two games to go we can still come home strong and win these two games and make the finals."
Brisbane could field a near full-strength squad against the Heart, with only Jade North a recent exclusion after the defender was called up to the Qantas Socceroos camp ahead of next Tuesday-s World Cup Qualifier.
Sunday 24 March Hyundai A-League Round 26 Brisbane Roar v Melbourne Heart Venue: Suncorp Stadium Kick off: 4:00 PM Referee: Matt Gillett
Check out all the squad information ahead of Sunday's clash here.