Double jeopardy for Victory

Coach Ernie Merrick says Melbourne Victory can kiss goodbye their hopes of securing the double chance if they don't win Thursday night's clash against Central Coast at AAMI Park.

Coach Ernie Merrick says Melbourne Victory can kiss goodbye their hopes of securing the double chance if they don't win Thursday night's clash against Central Coast at AAMI Park.

Merrick is starting to lose patience with the inconsistency his side has shown this year and blames a lack of sharpness up front for the fact Victory find themselves 15 points off the lead at the halfway point of the season.

Only the top two teams earn a double chance in the finals series, giving them a clear advantage in the battle to reach the Hyundai A-League Grand Final. In fact only one team in the competition's five-year history have come from outside the top two to make Grand Final - the Mariners in 2005/06.

Melbourne find themselves 11 points adrift of second-placed Adelaide and Merrick believes another defeat will see them too far off the pace to make the top two even with a late-season surge.

"I think this is a very important game for us. If we don't win this, we'll struggle to finish top two but if we get into the finals, we are capable of anything," he said.

As the table currently stands, Victory in sixth would still make the finals series, but Merrick does not believe the performances of the club this season warrants that position.

"I think the position flatters us to some extent. We haven't won enough games to merit being any higher. Performance in midfield in defence is one thing, but it's all about scoring goals, unless you keep the opposition honest by threatening to score a goal or scoring, then they are always going to come at you," he said.

The front third is the main bug bear for Merrick, with Melbourne managing just 18 goals in their 15 games to date. He hopes that the re-unification of fit again strike combo Archie Thompson and Robbie Kruse will make the difference on Thursday.

"Unless we operate well and consistently in the front third, we are not going to achieve what we want to achieve. Having the technical abilities of Robbie Kruse and Archie Thompson, and getting Carlos (Hernandez) back on form, I think we've got the technical ability to start picking up points on a regular basis," he said.

Kruse, who missed last week with a quad injury, will play as long as he gets through Wednesday's training session without any further problems, while Merrick said Thompson was getting better with every week after returning a fortnight ago after his knee reconstruction.

"Both Robbie and Archie will definitely start, which is what we've been trying to achieve from day one, trying to get two recognised strikers up front rather than putting a midfielder up there," he said.

"Archie is pretty close to 90 percent. It depends for the period of time, he's certainly playing good football at training and I thought he looked really good, particularly in the first half last week."

Merrick hinted that a couple of players won't come up off the short break between the game against Perth and this match. But skipper Kevin Muscat would not be one of those, with the veteran defender declaring himself fit despite receiving a nasty knock to the leg in Sunday's game.