Preview: Melbourne Heart v Central Coast

Kick-off 7:30pm AEST at AAMI Park on Thursday August 5.

Date: Thursday August 5
Kick-off: 7:30pm AEST
Venue: AAMI Park, Melbourne


Pre-season form:
Melbourne Heart:
July 22: Loddon Mallee Lightning 1 Melbourne Heart 9, Bendigo
July 14: Everton 2, Melbourne Heart 0, Etihad Stadium
July 8: Melbourne Heart 1, Newcastle Jets 2, Morwell
July 2: Oakleigh Cannons 2 Melbourne Heart 5, Oakleigh
June 25: Brisbane Roar 2, Melbourne Heart 0, Toowoomba
July 17: Wimmera South Coast Eagles 1 Melbourne Heart 3, Geelong

Central Coast Mariners:
July 27: Tasmanian Select XI 0, Central Coast Mariners 3, Hobart
July 25: Central Coast Mariners 0, Melbourne Victory 0, Launceston
July 17: Sydney FC 2 Central Coast Mariners 2, Sydney Showground
July 14: Central Coast Select XI 0, Central Coast Mariners 5
July 7: Belconnen United 1, Central Coast Mariners 4, McKellar Park
July 5: Canberra FC 0, Central Coast Mariners 4, Canberra
July 1: Northern Tigers 0, Central Coast Mariners 0, Mills Park
June 29: Blacktown City 1, Central Coast Mariners 1, Lily Homes Stadium
June 22: Bankstown City Lions 2, Central Coast Mariners 2, Jensen Park
June 17: Central Coast Lightning 1 Central Coast Mariners 7, Pluim Park

Match Committee
Melbourne Heart enters into its debut Hyundai A-League match without the services of three senior players, with Wayne Shroj and John Aloisi likely to miss the first couple of weeks of the season with off-season injuries and Kristian Sarkies still recuperating from a broken leg.

Matt Thompson and Josip Skoko have been cleared to play in this match and should take their place in the starting line-up, while John van ‘t Schip has an otherwise full list to pick from including young trio Kliment Taseski, Eli Babalj and Brendan Hamill, who have just returned from young Socceroos duties.

For the Mariners, defender Josh Rose will have to wait for his Hyundai A-League debut for his new club as he awaits a clearance from his former club. Marc Warren, Trent Sainsbury, Chris Doig, Sam Gallagher and Mustafa Amini have been left out.

Danger men
Gerald Sibon – The giant Dutchman comes to the Hyundai A-League with a terrific pedigree having played the last 15 years in the top flight in the Netherlands, Germany and in England. You would think that someone measuring 198cm would represent an obvious target man, but those who have played against him can attest he isn-t your typical 6ft 6 player. He is a master with the ball at foot and can deliver a deadly free kick. He is also surprisingly quick. Interestingly, Patrick Zwaanswijk is the man most likely to mark him and the two have played on each other plenty of times in the Dutch league.

Patricio Perez – If you believe coach Graham Arnold, he has plucked a real ace out of his sleeve with Argentine Perez, a former under 20 team-mate of none other than Lionel Messi. Perez is the playmaker that the Mariners have sorely missed in recent seasons and Arnold said he is the type of player who will bring fans through the door to watch him. It’s a big wrap, but he has impressed in the pre-season to date, with Adam Kwasnik, who scored eight goals in trial matches, one of the main beneficiaries of his arrival.

Where the game will be won
Given Arnold’s arrival at the club, it’s hard to know what style of play the Mariners will adopt. While predecessor Lawrie McKinna believed in compact play with attack from out wide, Arnold’s recruitment plans would indicate that there may be a change of set-up in the offering. A lot will depend on Perez and whether he can bring the strikers, be it Kwasnik, Matt Simon, Nik Mrdja or Daniel McBreen, into the game.

Heart will play 4-3-3 all season long with Rutger Worm playing in behind the strikers and Josip Skoko pulling the midfield strings. The central defensive pairing of Simon Colosimo and Michael Beauchamp is imposing and the Heart will look to defend centrally and use its speed of ball movement to attack through the wings. That’s where it is likely to find its joy. But if the Mariners are organised well enough, then their experience should get them over the line.

Melbourne Heart squad: 1. Clint BOLTON (gk), 2. Michael MARRONE, 3. Brendan HAMILL, 4. Simon COLOSIMO (c), 5. Michael BEAUCHAMP, 6. Matthew THOMPSON, 7. Rutger WORM, 9. Gerald SIBON, 10. Wayne SRHOJ, 11. ALEX TERRA, 17. Jason HOFFMAN, 19. Eli BABALJ, 20. Josip SKOKO, 21. Kliment TASESKI, 22. Nick KALMAR, 23. Dean HEFFERNAN, 24. Aziz BEHICH, 20.Peter ZOIS *three to be omitted*
Unavailable: John ALOISI (Hamstring – 4 weeks), Kristian SARKIES (Leg – Indefinite), 14.Kamal IBRAHIM (not selected), 18.Ante TOMIC (not selected)

Central Coast Mariners squad: 1. Jess VANSTRATTAN (gk), 2 Daniel MCBREEN, 4. Pedj BOJIC, 5. Brad PORTER, 6. Patrick ZWAANSWIJK, 7. John HUTCHINSON, 8. Rostyn GRIFFITHS, 9. Nik MRDJA, 10. Patricio PEREZ, 11. Oliver BOZANIC, 12. Matthew LEWIS, 14. Michael McGLINCHEY, 18. Alex WILKINSON (c), 19. Matt SIMON, 20. Mathew RYAN (gk), 23. Adam KWASNIK.
*one to be omitted*
Unavailable: 3. Joshua ROSE (ineligible), 15. Marc WARREN, 16. Trent SAINSBURY, 17. Chris DOIG, 21. Sam GALLAGHER, 22. Mustafa AMINI (not selected)