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A-League 2013-14 club preview: Melbourne Heart

Goal Australia brings you expert analysis of each club's situation as they prepare for the new campaign, including player movement, expectations and worst-case scenarios

ClubMichael Mifsud trains with Heart

Melbourne Heart

Last season

Ninth

Coach

John Aloisi

Captain

Harry Kewell

Players in

Aziz Behich [Bursaspor], Orlando Engelaar [PSV], Harry Kewell [Free], Patrick Kisnorbo [Leeds United], Michael Mifsud [Valletta], Andrea Migliorini [Koper], Massimo Murdocca [Brisbane Roar], Iain Ramsay [Adelaide United], Tando Velaphi [Melbourne Victory], Rob Wielaert [Roda JC]

Players out

Eli Babalj [AZ Alkmaar], Clint Bolton [retired], Simon Colosimo [Dempo], Jamie Coyne [released], Cameron Edwards [Perth Glory], Fred [released], Richard Garcia [Sydney FC], Steven Gray [released], Vince Grella [retired], Marcel Meeuwis [FC Eindhoven], Josip Tadic [HNK Rijeka], Matt Thompson [released]

Expectations

A major fadeout and a dreadful away record cost Heart a finals place last season and coach John Aloisi – in his second season in charge – would be expecting a top-six place this campaign.

The last two finals places are often fiercely contested and anything less could spell disaster for Aloisi, who has been given the opportunity to shape his squad – even without much luck.

Marquee signing Orlando Engelaar, who they believe is the player they have long been searching for in central midfield, broke his leg in pre-season and is expected to be out until at least the New Year.

Italian Andrea Migliorini has been signed on a short-term deal to replace him.

Michael Mifsud, Malta's all-time leading goalscorer, has also joined but whether he can score the goals Heart require remains to be seen.

They have added a threat to their squad elsewhere, however, with Harry Kewell and Iain Ramsay joining. Mate Dugandzic is almost like a new signing after missing the bulk of last season due to a foot injury.

Heart have added experience in the centre of defence in Rob Wielaert and Patrick Kisnorbo.

But unless they find goals and improve their record on the road, it could be yet another frustrating season.

What has to go right

Home form. Given their record on the road, which will improve, Heart cannot afford to be dropping too many points in front of their home fans. Heart's questionable crowds are much talked about and they host two Melbourne derbies this campaign, but winning will keep people coming back regardless of the opposition.

Worst-case scenario

Mifsud fails to get going and Kewell struggles while Heart are unable to improve on the away record which proved so costly last season. Injuries have been a problem in pre-season and Aloisi will be keen to keep a clean bill of health when the campaign begins.

Nightmare headline

"Heart break for Aloisi as Kewell walks"

We think

Aloisi has put together a squad capable of challenging for a place in the finals, but losing Engelaar appears to be a huge blow. Whether their form away from home will improve and if there is enough goals in their squad also remains questionable, but in an even league, they could surprise.

Prediction

Eighth [writer's prediction]

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