A-league coaches ramping up the pressure
Melbourne Victory threw the question of handling finals pressure back at Adelaide United as the mind games intensified ahead of Sunday's A-League major semi-final decider.
Adelaide coach John Kosmina claimed the Victory was worried about its form and under pressure going into the return leg at Telstra Dome after its 0-0 first leg draw in Adelaide on Sunday night.
But Victory coach Merrick said performances rather than pre-game talk would win the match, and questioned Kosmina's motives in attempting to ramp up the pressure on Melbourne.
Merrick pointed to Adelaide's failure to win an A-League finals match in two seasons, and praised his side's effort at Hindmarsh Stadium as its best defensive performance of 2006-07.
"He's played four finals matches and he hasn't won one yet, so I guess he's under a bit of pressure there," Merrick said.
"We put ourselves under pressure because we want to win the championship.
"We haven't lost a finals game yet, and we're pretty keen to go all the way.
"Anyone can say what they like. It comes down to performances.
"We've had a good performance away from home and we're looking for a good performance at the Telstra Dome."
Merrick promised a far more expansive attacking performance than the backs-to-the-wall defensive effort on show in Sunday night's 0-0 draw.
Adelaide entered the penalty area 27 times to the Victory's 11, but could only manage four shots on target.
Much of that was due to spirited Victory defence - with centre-back Rodrigo Vargas and fullback Simon Storey particularly impressive.
"Our primary aim was not to concede any goals and we did that so well," Merrick said.
"They threw everything at us and they couldn't score. The boys stood up very well.
"The personnel won't change a lot, but the way we play will change slightly to suit our home environment."
But the Victory, runaway winner of the league title going into the finals series, does have form concerns with just one win in its past five matches.
And its form at Telstra Dome has been patchier than the title favourite would like, with three wins, two draws and three losses from eight matches there.
"You go through the season and you just can't win every game so when you lose, there tends to be a bit of a focus on you," Merrick said.
"We lost a couple of games without our full squad. Now we're back to our full squad."
Victory officials are expecting another massive crowd at Telstra Dome for the match, with the likelihood the Australian domestic soccer record attendance of 50,333 the club set in December could be broken.
Officials said more than 30,000 tickets had already been pre-sold for Sunday's game.