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Jan 4, 2009

Depth a weapon for Victory: Merrick

Melbourne Victory coach Ernie Merrick expects the club's depth and injury-free status to be a telling weapon as tiring teams approach the A-League finals.

Two straight wins have not stopped Merrick making changes, with experienced midfielders Grant Brebner and Jose Luis Lopez recalled to the squad for Tuesday night's battle for top spot with Adelaide United at Telstra Dome.

Brebner has missed the past three matches, the first two on suspension for a gambling infringement, while Costa Rican international Lopez was overlooked for the past two games.

The Victory coach could also change the starting XI, with Nick Ward, Matthew Kemp and Ney Fabiano all pressing after big impacts as substitutes in recent weeks.

"I've got a tough decision to make, but it's a great position to be in," Merrick said.

"Given the number of games that are played in a short period of time it's great to have that type of squad available."

"This is the time of year where we're all affected by fatigue.

"We're just in a very very fortunate position, we've got 22 fit players, we've got no injuries and we've recovered well from our last game."

The crucial match against Adelaide comes just four days after Melbourne's last game, against Queensland Roar on Friday night.

But United have an even harder recovery task, having to back up three days after beating Sydney FC on a hard Adelaide Oval surface.

Reds coach Aurelio Vidmar admitted his players had pulled up sore from that encounter.

"Obviously we'd like a lot longer but that's the way it is. We've got no issue with it and we've just got to get on with it," Vidmar said.

He said A-League officials had little option but to slot the games in where they could and Adelaide had proven their ability to cope well with packed schedules of matches.

"It's probably not the ideal run in coming to the end of the season but that's what we've got and that's because of our success," he said.

Meanwhile, Merrick was confident the pitch would be in better shape than for the game against the Roar, which was nearly cancelled because of damage done by a huge New Year's Eve dance party two nights earlier.

But Melbourne skipper Kevin Muscat was less optimistic, saying the surface was still poor when the Victory trained on Sunday.

"It was just the same as it was the other night, possibly a little bit better, but we've been promised it's going to be a significant amount better than it was on Friday night," Muscat said.

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