Glory all Heart
The wise money is on Perth
Perth Glory hope their excellent start to the season heralds a return to the way they dominated Australian soccer not so long ago. Andy Morris considers their chances.
You don't need the longest of memories to recall how Perth used to be the force of the old NSL, winning back-to-back championships in 2002/3 and the following year, and finishing top of the ladder three seasons out of five.
The years since then have been ordinary, although last year's fifth position stopped a sequence of three consecutive seventh-place finishes.
But going into this weekend, they sit proudly atop the A-League standings, and on paper should consolidate that position when they take on the league's bottom team, Melbourne Heart. Perth have won two and drawn one of their three games, while the competition's new boys have only a draw to show from their first three matches.
Heart have been further hit by their injury situation, with Josip Skoko missing through a hamstring injury and Michael Beauchamp sitting this one out with an ankle problem. Their consolation may be that Perth have their own problems in that regard - Jamie Harnwell and Mile Sterjovski, who each scored in the 2-0 win against the Victory a fortnight ago in Melbourne, will both be absent through injury.
Coach Dave Mitchell has called Howard Fondyke, Anthony Skorich and Michael Baird into his squad for this one.
Branko Jelic will the one of the players Perth look to to unlock the Melbourne defence. Jelic scored the winner against Newcastle last weekend so will take some confidence into this fixture.
This is only Heart's second home game, and they go into it looking to set the record straight after their opening day 1-0 defeat to the Mariners. Former Jets skipper Mark Thompson is arguably their danger man, and showed in setting up the team's second goal in the 3-2 defeat to Adelaide last week that he can potentially be a match-winner.
Even though they will have the home ground advantage, it's hard to see Melbourne stopping Perth in this one as the Glory look to have found an excellent combination which could challenge for the title this season.
The wise money is on Perth, either 1-0 or 2-0.