|By RONNY LERNER
Melbourne Heart coach John Aloisi has described the absence of prolific Brisbane Roar striker Besart Berisha from their crunch match at AAMI Park on Friday due to injury as a "good boost" for his bottom-placed side.
The Albanian star will sit out the clash of the cellar dwellers due to groin and abdomen complaints, which he has been forced to play with in recent weeks.
The loss of Berisha is a massive blow for the second-bottom Roar, who are attempting to get their season back on track after suffering their worst-ever start to a campaign with only four points to show for their first five matches.
A loss to the Heart on Friday would see Brisbane replace Aloisi's team at the foot of the A-League table, and the Melbourne boss intimated the odds of that happening shortened with Berisha missing from the Roar line-up.
"He scored so many goals for them last year, he's a good striker even when he doesn't look like he's involved he seems to pop up and score a goal," Aloisi said at training at AAMI Park on Thursday.
"He's a massive loss for Brisbane of course... if he's not playing, it's a bonus for us."
But Aloisi pointed out that the Heart had their own personnel concerns, with the likes of Fred [injury], David Vrankovic and Ben Garuccio [both Australia youth duty] all unavailable too.
The Heart manager highlighted the need for their replacements to perform well but insisted star recruit Vince Grella would not be one of those, and the former Parma and Blackburn midfielder was still at least a fortnight away from resuming.
"It would help if he was playing but we don't want him to come back and reinjure himself and we're making sure that he has a good [fitness] base before he starts playing," Aloisi said.
"We know with Vinnie in the side we're going to be a great side, so we're just making sure that he's going to be right."
The Heart were undefeated against the reigning back-to-back champions last season, registering a win and two draws, and would take confidence from that fact, according to Aloisi.
"We've been pretty good against Brisbane in the past... we match up quite well against them," he said.
While Aloisi revealed he would be treating their upcoming clash with the Roar as a "grand final", he denied another loss would rule them out of finals calculations so early in the season.
But he conceded he would like to avoid playing "catch up" in their bid to finish in the top six for a second year in successeion, with a win this week would be vital to those ambitions.
"If we lose [to Brisbane] it's not great for us but there's a long way to go and we know that we're going to get a lot stronger... there's a lot of other players we're missing at the moment," Aloisi said.
"It's not going to determine our season if we lose.
"You just want to win because you don't want to be too far away and playing catch up."
Aloisi said the current table positions that both the Heart and Roar occupy are not a true reflection of how both teams are playing.
"I thought last week against the Wanderers we created a lot of some really good chances, [we] probably need to put them away," he said.
"Little mistakes that are costing us when we're conceding goals, so there's not too much going wrong, it looks bad because we've lost [three in a row].
"Last week I saw them [Roar] against Adelaide and they didn't look like they were without confidence, they played really good football, created a lot of opportunities... I don't think they deserved to lose, they should have actually won that game."