Melbourne Heart coach John Aloisi says his men are 'up for' the city derby against Victory, and also revealed striker Eli Babalj will start in his second coming for the club
|By GREIG JOHNSTON
They may be heading into the third Melbourne derby of the A-League season as underdogs, but John Aloisi expects nothing less than three points when his Heart side tackle Victory at Etihad Stadium on Saturday.
Heart have been something of a basket case in 2012-13, exciting at their best and dreadful at their worst, with their 1-0 loss to 10-man Western Sydney last Saturday at the latter end of that spectrum.
Aloisi's side are in sixth place on 21 points, but with just five points separating fifth-placed Newcastle  and bottom side Wellington , every win is crucial in the race for the top six.
And despite his team's poor showing against the Wanderers, Aloisi is confident his players have what it takes to respond and pointed to their record of getting up for Victory clashes.
"No one's expecting us to win except us," Aloisi said at La Trobe University on Friday.
"We've still got a lot to lose because we want to be in the top six.
"The beginning of the week the boys were still down because they were disappointed in their performance as much as anyone, but the last two days they've been great.
"Everyone's up for the game."
Last time the two teams met, a last-gasp Archie Thompson strike fired Victory to a 2-1 win at AAMI Park, but Aloisi said he had not used that game as a spur.
"Not at all, I spoke about how well we seem to perform in derbies... especially after bad games and we had a terrible game last week," he said.
"Last time we played Victory, we played Mariners the week before and that was a bad game [a 2-0 loss], and I still remember the first derby where we lost to Brisbane 4-0 [the week before, in September 2010] and we ended up beating Victory, so they're things that will spur the players on."
Aloisi said he was thrilled to welcome back young striker Eli Babalj, especially with the loss of Aziz Behich to Turkish side Bursaspor, the retirement of Vince Grella and the absence of captain Fred through injury.
Although he declined to reveal his line-up, Aloisi hinted he would hand Babalj a start after his half-hour against Western Sydney on Saturday.
"You make room for good players," he said.
"[It's] great to have him back. He look's hungry, he's looked sharp this week in training and he wants to play football.
"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."
Babalj returned to the club last week after a disastrous spell at financially embattled Red Star Belgrade, and he said he was looking forward to the clash on Saturday.
"When I heard I could be coming back to Melbourne, and then saw the fixtures and saw I could be back for the derby - every player loves to play in [derbies].
"There'll be a big crowd tomorrow. I'm sure it'll be a good game.
"I'm happy to be here. I'm relieved to get out of there, but [also] to get back in an environment I know well where I can concentrate on football and grow as a player again."