Melbourne Heart coach John Aloisi will throw his returning stars straight into the starting line-up for Friday’s clash with Central Coast.
Full-backs Aziz Behich and Michael Marrone, plus winger Richard Garcia, returned to training with the Heart on Wednesday after being involved in Australia’s East Asian Cup qualifying campaign in Hong Kong.
Despite two clean-sheets without the two regular defenders, Aloisi said all three men will start at Bluetongue Stadium.
“Richie and Aziz played all the games, alright they didn’t play 90 minutes in all of them, but they were involved in all of them,” Aloisi said at La Trobe University on Thursday.
“They came back happy, fresh and so they’re going to be involved tomorrow. All three will start.
“(Nick) Kalmar will miss out (for Garcia), which is hard on Nicky because Nicky played really well last week. But we all know what Richie can do.”
Aloisi said last week’s late-goal hero Golgol Mebrahtu, who scored on debut for the Heart to secure a 1-0 win over Perth Glory, would again be used from the bench as he continues to work toward full fitness after a succession of injuries.
The Heart coach said the league-leading Mariners present a formidable challenge for his team, and described Graham Arnold’s side as one of the most consistent in the competition.
“They made the grand final the first year, when I was there we won the minor premiership and made the grand final,” he said.
“(Captain John) Hutchinson, he goes unnoticed. He’s the one that leads that team, on the pitch and off the pitch. He’s brilliant.
“Team spirit goes a long way and the Mariners have had that from the beginning and that’s why they’ve been successful and consistent.
“We know the Mariners are a good side, well-organised and we know what to expect from them – it’s going to be a tough game, but we’re confident we can get something there.”