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Jan 31, 2011

Merrick hits back at Bleiberg

Melbourne Victory coach Ernie Merrick says Gold Coast counterpart Miron Bleiberg has brought the A-League into disrepute and handed Victory ammunition when they next clash.

Victory can secure a finals berth by picking up a draw or win against Newcastle Jets at Etihad Stadium on Wednesday night, which would most likely set them up for an elimination final against Gold Coast.

That looms as a heated meeting, after the normally-reserved Merrick on Tuesday hit back angrily at Bleiberg, who accused Melbourne of "dirty" and "brutal" play in Sunday's 2-0 win at AAMI Park.

Merrick said the criticism was totally at odds with what he saw on the pitch.

"It was either an attempt at deflection or some sort of mind games, either way he failed miserably," the Victory boss said.

"We'll use that down the track as motivation.

"It's just very disappointing when someone has a cheap shot like that."

Merrick suggested Bleiberg's comments amounted to an indirect attack on referee Peter Green.

"A coach has really said that the referee was totally incompetent, (that) he allowed a war and brutal tackles to occur," he said.

"To me that's bringing the game into disrepute, I think (North Queensland coach) Franz Straka got two weeks for saying and doing less."

A Football Federation Australia (FFA) spokesman said Bleiberg's comments had been reviewed but were not deemed worthy of sanction.

Victory will rush back striker Robbie Kruse into Wednesday night's starting line-up, a day after returning from Qatar, where he scored in Australia's Asian Cup semi-final and again impressed off the bench in the final.

"I wasn't really expecting that much game-time, I was really just going to impress in training and see where that took me ... hopefully I did a good enough job for (coach Holger Osieck) to pick me again next game," Kruse said.

His return is timely, with Melbourne losing Carlos Hernandez and Grant Brebner to injuries from the Gold Coast game, while Archie Thompson is still missing with a hamstring injury.

Costa Rican Marvin Angulo is also expected to come into the starting side.

The eighth-placed Jets will be all but out of finals contention unless they win, which Merrick said should make for an entertaining match.

"They'll be down here to play for a win, which is good for us, when teams play attacking football that really suits us."

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