Archie in doubt for GCU clash

Star striker Archie Thompson is under an injury cloud heading into Friday night's top-of-the-table clash between leaders Melbourne Victory and Gold Coast United.

Star striker Archie Thompson is under an injury cloud heading into Friday night's top-of-the-table clash between leaders Melbourne Victory and Gold Coast United.

Thompson limped his way through the terminal at Melbourne Airport on Thursday before joining an extended Victory squad for the flight to Coolangatta.

According to coach Ernie Merrick, Thompson picked up a knock to his left ankle in Melbourne's 4-0 rout of Wellington Phoenix at Etihad Stadium on Australia Day, and won't be risked if he's not right.

"He hasn't responded as quickly as we thought to a knock on his ankle," said Merrick. "There's no tear of the ligaments, there's just some swelling from the knock."

"We won't make a decision 'til the last minute but, at this time, I would say he's probably 50-50 to play."

Merrick said he expects Thompson to be fully recovered in time for next week's clash with North Queensland and there's no indication the injury will have any long-term effects.

"After 25 rounds you're always going to have injuries here and there," he said.

"It's not a serious injury; it's an injury he could play on if it was a finals match."

"But given it's not finals and we've got a few games to play yet, if I have a choice, I probably won't risk him."

Should Thompson fail to come up, youngster Aziz Behic is in line to take his place as part of a revamped attacking formation that could include Nick Ward, Tom Pondeljak or Carlos Hernandez playing as a third 'high' striker.

There's also a query apparently over the fitness of keeper Mitch Langerak, who according to Merrick, is a bit 'under the weather'.

Merrick confirmed that Matthew Kemp would come into the starting line-up, but he doesn't feel inclined to make wholesale changes despite the short turnaround between Australia Day and Friday.

As far as possible, Merrick said he intends to play his first-choice line-up in the run to the finals.

"The boys are doing well, they're feeling fit, they're feeling good and they're very relieved they didn't have a weight training session this week so the extra game is nothing to them," Merrick said.

"I've always favoured having quality, experienced players rather than youngsters at this stage of the season leading into the finals, so I'll always go with the senior players."

"Having said that, we've got some pretty good youngsters as back-up."

Merrick said that while he was delighted with the form of Marvin Angulo on Tuesday in just his second starting appearance for the Victory, he doesn't want to overload the Costa Rican import with too much, too early.

He feels Angulo may be best served by starting on the bench against Gold Coast.

"We were really happy with his performance (against Wellington), the way he set up Archie's goal and ... he was a bit unlucky not to score himself," said Merrick.

"But we've got to ease him into regular, full-time, 90-minute football because he hasn't played a full game in close to four months."