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  • December 15, 2013
  • • 14:00
  • • Allianz Stadium, Sydney
  • Referee: C. Beath
  • • Attendance: 16008

Sydney-Heart Preview: Del Piero to return, Heart seek first win

Sydney-Heart Preview: Del Piero to return, Heart seek first win

The Sky Blues should get their Italian marquee forward back for the visit of the red and whites, who are still seeking a first victory this term

Sydney FC's club record four-game winning streak ended with a 1-0 loss to Central Coast Mariners on Saturday night. They sorely missed injured skipper Alessandro Del Piero (hamstring) and hardly forced a save out of Liam Reddy in 90 minutes. The Italian maestro is confident he will return against the Heart, however coach Frank Farina has repeatedly stated he won't take any risks with the veteran if he is not fully fit. The Sky Blues enter Sunday's clash in second spot on 16 points, trailing leaders Brisbane Roar by five. John Aloisi's men are still winless this season but have shown signs of life in their previous two matches. For the second-straight week the bottom-placed Heart scored the opening goal but were unable to hold on for their first victory of the campaign. They can hold their heads high after a gutsy 1-1 draw with Western Sydney Wanderers at Pirtek Stadium but return to the harbour city in desperate need of a win.

Sydney FC lacked creativity without Del Piero in the side so the first issue is getting the veteran back on the park and if he doesn't play others need to do a better job of filling the void in attack. The battle is as much mental as it is physical for the Heart, who have not tasted victory since they beat the Sky Blues in February. Spirited performances against the Wanderers and Adelaide United have given coach John Aloisi, player and fans alike some cause for optimism, but the time has come for the Heart to start winning. They have the physical ability but must find a way to overcome the psychological scars from a horror 12 months and begin their long climb up the A-League ladder with a win.

As is so often the case, Alessandro Del Piero is likely to be key to Sydney's hopes. The Italian maestro missed Saturday's 1-0 loss to the Mariners with a minor hamstring strain suffered the previous week against Newcastle Jets but is expected to return on Sunday. While the Sky Blues scored two goals against the Jets after Del Piero left the field late in the first half, they were toothless in attack without the 39-year-old against the Mariners. It is no coincidence Del Piero played every game of his side's recent four-match winning streak, while he has missed two-and-a-half of their four defeats through injury.

Sydney FC have claimed an impressive 12 points from five home matches this season, with their only defeat at Allianz Stadium coming to cross-town rivals Western Sydney Wanderers in Round 3. Add the fact the Heart haven't won away for more than a year and the visitors clearly have their work cut out for them again this weekend. But Aloisi's men have shown signs of improvement over the past fortnight and are capable of pulling off the upset. The Sky Blues beat the Heart 2-0 in Melbourne four weeks ago but complacency shouldn't be a factor for Farina's men following Saturday's loss to the Mariners. Expect another competitive outing from the Heart but the hosts should have too much firepower at home, especially if Del Piero returns from injury as expected.

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