Time for Archie to shine, says Merrick
Melbourne Victory coach Ernie Merrick has backed Archie Thompson to light up Friday night's crucial A-League clash with Central Coast and heap the pressure on top-of-the-table Adelaide United.
Socceroos striker Thompson has been in sparkling recent form despite not finding the net regularly, but Merrick warned his star charge was ready to ignite in front of goal against the Mariners at Telstra Dome.
With a Socceroos squad to be named on Monday, and the Victory just two points behind Adelaide with two fixtures remaining before the finals, Thompson has the ideal opportunity to add to his reputation as a big occasion player.
"He is (on the verge of a big game). He's been outstanding, setting up others, working hard off the ball," Merrick said.
"Archie's on fire. I'd be very surprised if Archie doesn't score tomorrow night."
Merrick is desperate for a Victory win on Friday night which would - for at least 48 hours - send Melbourne above Adelaide United at the top of the table.
Adelaide's lead was cut to just two points with their 0-0 draw with Queensland on Wednesday.
And Merrick was happy to point out the pressure the Reds are now under to hang on to top spot, especially if Melbourne can beat Central Coast.
"0-0 was probably the ideal result for us. First and second place, there's an opportunity for us," Merrick said.
"Our destiny is in our hands. Adelaide now will find out what it's like to be at the top with people dying to knock them off to secure a spot in the finals."
Merrick has called Michael Thwaite into the squad for Matthew Kemp (suspended), while striker Ney Fabiano is almost certain to start in place of Costa Rican midfielder Carlos Hernandez.
"The 11 we put out will be a big strong team ready for a scrap," Merrick said.
Socceroos coach Pim Verbeek is expected to be at the match.
He will get the chance to run the rule over several candidates for the all A-League squad he will name on Monday to play Indonesia in a January 28 Asian Cup qualifier in Jakarta.
Among them are Thompson and Victory strike partner Danny Allsopp, and young Central Coast striker Matt Simon - who boasts more goals this season than the Victory pair.