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Jan 24, 2013

Heart's Grella in, Babalj awaits clearance

An international clearance and freedom from jet-lag are the only things standing between striker Eli Babalj's return to the A-League with Melbourne Heart on Saturday night.

The Heart will have the luxury of at least one Socceroo in Vinnie Grella - and possibly a second in Babalj - added to their bench as they take on another in-form side in Western Sydney Wanderers at Parramatta Stadium.

Grella's long-awaited A-League debut is assured, with Aloisi certain to use the veteran at some stage as a substitute.

Babalj, released by Serbian club Red Star Belgrade back to the Heart this week after they failed to pay his entire transfer fee, is no certainty.

But he will be in Sydney waiting - arriving there late on Friday night via a whistle-stop visit to hometown Perth to see family.

Babalj's clearance from Red Star is not yet through, which could scuttle any hope of him playing at all.

Should it come through overnight as Aloisi hopes, then it will be a decision between the 20-year-old and Heart's medical and coaching staff as to how they feel he has recovered from his long flight.

"We'll ask him how he feels and have a look at him and see," Aloisi said.

"He's young, and that's always an advantage.

"When I was younger and used to go away with the national team, you could play there on a Wednesday and be back in Europe on a Saturday, and you could cope with it quite well."

When 33-year-old Grella takes the field, it will be a triumph of persistence and patience for both player and club.

The Heart have been painstaking in their efforts to bring him back only when fully fit after a variety of niggling injuries, even outsourcing a personal training regimen for the two-time World Cup player.

Aloisi said his own late career injury problems gave him an insight into Grella's well-being and the need to be patient.

The Wanderers are likely to name an unchanged side from the one which beat Brisbane Roar last weekend.

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