Culina not convinced by Victory

Newcastle coach Branko Culina has questioned the form of Melbourne going into their Hyundai A-League Round 5 clash at Etihad Stadium on Thursday night.

Newcastle coach Branko Culina has questioned the form of Melbourne going into their Hyundai A-League Round 5 clash at Etihad Stadium on Thursday night.

The reigning premier is in seventh place on the Hyundai A-League table after a win and draw from its first four games and Culina said Melbourne's statement of saying 'they are playing better than their result indicate' doesn't ring true.

"I think they are trying to justify to themselves that they are better than they are," Culina said. "I thought against Perth they played better than what the result indicated but I thought they were pretty ordinary against the Fury when they won 1-0 and I didn't think they were that good against Queensland Roar when they drew 3-all, so they have been patchy and you can say that a little bit about us as well."

"They have enough quality across the park but they rely a lot on individuals on Archie Thompson, Kevin Muscat, (Carlos) Hernandez, so if the players are on fire they do well but if they are not, they struggle a bit but we hope to go out there and make sure they have as difficult time as possible."

The Newcastle boss said he was glad to be facing a Melbourne side minus Hernandez, who is on international duty with Coast Rica, but indicated the Victory had enough depth to compensate for the loss of their chief playmaker.

"Obviously he is one of their key players and when you have a key player missing it does force chances," Culina said.

"From our point of view I prefer to play Melbourne without Hernandez but they are one of the sides that have talent and depth when you have Nick Ward and Ney Fabiano, for most of the season on the bench, has plenty of depth."

"For us it was important to rebound after the loss against Perth Glory, this game is doubly important because if we want to be a top team we need to get three or four successive deals."

"At the moment people are saying: ' Are Newcastle the real deal or can they just jag a good result here and there?' We won't know until we have those three of four wins in a row."

Newcastle welcomes back strikers Jason Hoffman and Donny De Groot to the squad for Thursday night-s match while Italian playmaker Fabio Vignaroli is only a 50-50 chance after suffering a hamstring strain in the 1-0 win over the Gold Coast last Sunday and Culina said he would pick the best squad for to clash with the Victory.

"Every game is different you don't wait for things to break before you change it," he said. "We left Hoffman out last week because we felt he wasn't 100 percent and we needed fresh legs against Melbourne because of the short turn around."

"It doesn't help that Melbourne has had an extra two days to prepare. If you want to be a top team you have to be 10 percent above everything that includes referees, fixture schedules, bad luck, injuries whatever - you just have to be above it."

"It's important that we gain that momentum, we have had a terrific win last week against the team that is still the benchmark of Australian football, but that means nothing if we can't back it up and get a result in Melbourne."