Key Hearts set to start

Melbourne Heart midfielders Matthew Thompson and Josip Skoko are set to overcome injuries and play in the club’s historic first match against Central Coast at AAMI Park on Thursday night.

Melbourne Heart midfielders Matthew Thompson and Josip Skoko are set to overcome injuries and play in the club’s historic first match against Central Coast at AAMI Park on Thursday night.

Thompson has been recovering from off-season ankle surgery, while Skoko suffered a knock to his knee in training last week which saw him miss time on the training track.

But both are expected to play against the Mariners, meaning only John Aloisi, Wayne Srhoj and Kristian Sarkies are unavailable from the club’s senior players.

“I’m confident that tomorrow I’ll have the best XI I can out there,” coach John Van ‘t Schip said.

“That doesn-t say that’s the best XI for the season.”

“(Skoko) had a little bit of a problem after the training session last week, but yesterday he had a full session and today he had a full session, so there’s no problem there. Matt is fit, he’s trained the past few weeks.”

Srhoj and Aloisi are still recovering from off-season injuries and are expected to be at least two weeks away, while Sarkies, who is still working his way back from a from a broken leg suffered in February is not expected to return for some time.

Van ‘t Schip said that with a near full-strength squad to choose from, he will need to make some tough decisions, with team balance more important than reputations.

“The balance of the team is important. Eleven good players don-t always make a good team. We have to see if we can prepare them on the right way,” he said.

Captain Simon Colosimo is certain to figure and said there is enormous anticipation among the playing group ahead of Thursday’s match, the first Hyundai A-League match to be played at AAMI Park.

“There’s excitement. Everyone has been working very hard to get to tomorrow. To have a run at this beautiful stadium and what a great place it is to play and watch football. There’s a great opportunity to do something great,” he said.

Both Van ‘t Schip and Colosimo are confident they know not only their opponents in Thursday’s match but also the opposition coach, Graham Arnold, who will also be making his debut.

Arnold played against Van ‘t Schip when playing for Roda in the Dutch league in the early 1990s, while in the twilight of his career at Northern Spirit, fronted up against a young Colosimo.

Van ‘t Schip is wary of the Mariners and believes Arnold will have a strong impact on the team.

“The Mariners from what I’ve heard and what I’ve seen are a very competitive team with a good fighting spirit. They have a new coach as well who will bring new energy to the team. I know him quite well,” he said.

But the prospect of coming up against a team which was unbeaten in 10 pre-season games does not concern the Dutchman.

“The pre-season doesn-t tell you that much about the first game. There are pre-seasons that you do very well and you start the league bad, and the other way around as well,” he said.

In other news, the Heart has rounded off its roster with the elevation of goalkeeper coach Peter Zois to the playing list.

The 32-year-old has signed a one-year deal and will also continue his coaching duties, as he becomes the understudy of former Sky Blue Clint Bolton.

Zois has a plethora of European experience, including a nine-year stay in the Dutch Eredivisie with Willem II and NAC Breda.

The former South Melbourne stopper in the Victorian Premier League is a welcome addition to the roster for van ‘t Schip.

“We need someone for the now, and Peter will provide us with that assurance, but we will continue the search for the best and brightest young goalkeeper as a long term back up to Clint Bolton,” he said.

“Peter has been with the Club since day one as our goalkeeper coach, and throughout this time, he has shown himself to be a model professional.”

“We looked at a number of goalkeepers throughout the pre-season. Our policy since last October, when we could start contracting players, has been not to sign players unless they are of an elite quality. Peter has shown without doubt he belongs in that category, as a person and a footballer.”