Fabulous Fred is vital to A-League's Heart
Brazilian import Fred's importance to Melbourne Heart's march towards a first A-League finals campaign has been recognised by coach John van 't Schip.
Normally reluctant to single out individuals, van 't Schip admitted the midfield playmaker had been pivotal in the Heart's late season flurry after missing their mid-season slump through injury.
The Heart have not won a match this season without Fred.
They have nine wins, two draws and three losses with him in the side.
In the 10 games they've played without him, they haven't posted a win.
"Of course he's important with his energy, his way of playing, his mobility and his experience," van 't Schip said.
"The way he plays, his energy helps all the other players around him.
"He is the sort of player that as a coach, you always want to have in your team."
The Heart's clash with third-placed Wellington Phoenix at AAMI Park on Saturday is vital for the Melbourne team's slim hopes of securing a home final.
They must earn maximum points and hope either the Phoenix or fourth-placed Perth Glory fade late to pinch a top four spot.
Defender Michael Marrone said the Heart had been buoyed by their recent performances against the top two sides Central Coast Mariners and Brisbane Roar.
The Heart beat the Mariners a fortnight ago, then held the Roar to a 1-1 draw with goalkeeper Clint Bolton's last-gasp penalty save last weekend.
"Knowing that we can play well against the best sides, it's all positive," Marrone said.
"Looking to Wellington, they're a different kind of team with different things that are good about them.
"They're a physical team, they're managing to score a lot of goals, away from home they're doing well now.
"Everyone is fit, there's good competition within the squad so hopefully we can churn out some good results leading into the finals."
The Heart have Olyroo midfielder Jason Hoffman fit again after illness, while the Phoenix are set to name an unchanged side.