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Jan 30, 2007

Victory to practice for penalty showdown

Melbourne Victory will test its players' nerves with spot-kick practice on Thursday as the spectre of a penalty shootout to decide who hosts the A-League grand final looms large.

A 0-0 draw in Sunday night's major semi-final second leg against Adelaide United at Telstra Dome will send the match to 30 minutes' extra-time, before a penalty shootout kicks in.

The first leg in Adelaide last weekend finished 0-0.

But while Victory coach Ernie Merrick expects Sunday's contest to be over inside 90 minutes, he's taking no chances.

All players will be subjected to penalty-kick practice to help Merrick finalise his five players to take the match-deciding spot-kicks should the need arise.

One certain penalty-taker will be skipper Kevin Muscat, who has a perfect record from the spot in the A-League, with 11 goals from 11 attempts over the past two seasons.

Victory's first-choice goalkeeper Michael Theoklitos is also an accomplished penalty stopper.

"If you don't consider every scenario, you're not doing your job so we'll have penalty practice tomorrow," Merrick said.

"The boys have got to want to take them - they've got to show the determination and the confidence.

"I'm not sure it will go that far, but if it does, we'll be ready."

The Victory will also have its four Olyroos back for its final training session on Saturday at Telstra Dome.

First choice centre-back Adrian Leijer and squad midfielders Kristian Sarkies, Vince Lia and Leigh Broxham are scheduled to be released from the Australian under-23 squad's camp in Adelaide on Friday afternoon to return to their club.

Football Federation Australia confirmed all four clubs involved in A-League finals would have their players back in plenty of time for their matches.

Adelaide United's three Olyroos, including star striker Nathan Burns, will also leave camp on Friday.

Sydney FC and Newcastle's Olyroos broke from camp ahead of their side's Friday night minor semi-final showdown in Newcastle.

The Olyroos are preparing for their opening Olympic qualifier against Chinese Taipei in Adelaide next week.

But Merrick said his side wouldn't be disadvantaged by being without its four Olyroos for this week's training sessions.

"We've had a long year, lots of coaching time and it's great they're over there preparing for an Olympics," he said.

"We're not going to do any strategic work or technical work this week.

"It's about getting their bodies right for the game and everyone being in the right frame of mind."