Melbourne Heart host Adelaide United in Round 8 of the 2013-14 A-League season at AAMI Stadium on Sunday December 1 at 5.00pm AEDT
Walker, Kisnorbo, Wielaert, Behich
Dugandzic, Kewell, Williams
Elrich, Malik, Boogard, Zullo
Isaias, Carrusca, LusticaFerreira, Jeronimo, Cirio
Played: 9, Wins: Heart 2, Adelaide 5, Draws: 2
Heart 0-2 Adelaide, March 3 2013
Past five matches:
If Adelaide United need cheering up (and they do), they have only to inspect the state of their opponents this weekend. Both coaches have been preaching a message that performances have been positive, chances are being created and the results are just around the corner. In Adelaide's case, that could still be true.
To give Josep Gombau and his possession-based approach the benefit of the doubt, the Reds have had a bit of a tough run lately. Two games against arch-rivals Melbourne Victory in the space of five rounds, away matches against grand finalists Western Sydney and Central Coast in successive weeks, as well as the long, draining trip to play Perth in WA. True, a loss at home to the previously out-of-form Newcastle Jets was disappointing, and they should have done better against the 10 men of Victory last time out. But Adelaide continue to move the ball well, and any team which controls possession has a chance of converting that statistical dominance into goals and wins. They need to come soon though, before the pressure becomes too much for a manager who keeps insisting the process is his priority.
As for Heart, in the last two weeks the spells of encouraging football and the number of chances being created and not taken have become fewer and fewer, leaving embattled coach John Aloisi clutching at straws as he attempts to explain the nightmare run and seek to turn the team's season around. At just about any other club in the league, Aloisi would have been axed by now, with the Heart's financial constraints and default low expectations keeping him in the job. But even they have limits as to what they can endure, meaning it will soon be a case of now or never if a revival is to take place without a change in the dugout.
The big issue:
Heart – What isn't an issue for the Heart at this point? They need to show more spirit and determination if they really believe in Aloisi's message, and they also have to make better decisions and execute skill-sets more effectively all over the pitch for results to improve. The ball needs to be moved more quickly and with more accuracy in the final third if they are to breach opposing defences with the frequency required to win matches.
Adelaide – Similar attacking problems to their opponents this weekend, although not as acute. Adelaide pass the ball nicely, and then do nothing with it in the final third. They have bags of talent in that department, with Jeronimo Neumann, Marcelo Carrusca, Fabio Ferreira and Bruce Djite all capable of finding the back of the net. But something hasn't clicked in Gombau's attacking game-plan yet. Worryingly, they've also started shipping goals at the other end. Reversing the flow is crucial for a season that promised so much back in Round 1 to get finally off the ground.
The game breaker:
Harry Kewell - the Heart's captain and playmaker hasn't been seen since Round 1 due to a whiplash injury and then a rolled ankle. Despite his poor injury record in recent years, Aloisi built his formation around the veteran forward and put enormous faith in his ability to lead by example, create goals and set the tempo. They have been lost without him. Now Kewell, expected to return to fitness this weekend, has to repay his coach. The visit of Adelaide is the first opportunity, but it will take a consistent run from the former Socceroo star to rescue his team's campaign.
Prediction: Melbourne Heart 1-2 Adelaide United
Gombau's uncertain players will not receive a better opportunity than this to prove they have absorbed the Spaniard's tactics and can implement his desired strategy. If they can't get it right against a woeful Heart, it could be a long season ahead for the Reds. Heart meanwhile also have a decent chance to finally come good. They are on home soil, and facing a club which haven't won since the opening weekend. Kewell is expected to be back, while striker Michael Mifsud has had plenty of time to settle in, and must start scoring soon. It is unlikely to be easy on the eye at AAMI Park on Sunday, but with jobs potentially on the line, this match is certain to be morbidly fascinating.