Ernie puts best team forward

Melbourne Victory coach Ernie Merrick has declared star striker Archie Thompson a definite starter but refused to guarantee Carlos Hernandez's place ahead of Sunday's elimination final against Gold Coast United.

Melbourne Victory coach Ernie Merrick has declared star striker Archie Thompson a definite starter but refused to guarantee Carlos Hernandez's place ahead of Sunday's elimination final against Gold Coast United.

Speaking at the official launch of the Hyundai A-League Finals series in Sydney, a confident Merrick confirmed he'll unleash attacking trio Danny Allsopp, Robbie Kruze and Thompson for the must-win clash.

He also revealed Grant Brebner (calf) will definitely miss the match while Billy Celeski (hip) is a strong chance to take his place in the side.

But there was no mention of Hernandez, fuelling speculation the Costa Rican is not in Merrick's plans for the Gold Coast clash despite making a successful return from a groin injury against Adelaide United last Friday.

"The one player that's probably not going to make it who has had a fantastic year is Grant Brebner, but Archie Thompson will be starting," Merrick said.

"To have him and Robbie Kruse and Danny Allsopp up front will be a very exciting attacking formation and that was the plan, that's why we had the run in Adelaide and brought them on."

"We're going to play our best team and it's going to be a very strong team."

Despite finishing 22 points behind runaway leaders Brisbane Roar in fifth spot on the ladder at the end of the regular season, Merrick is adamant his side are still legitimate Championship contenders.

"To make the finals you've got to be a good team and any team can beat any other team and the League is just such a high standard," he said.

"I've always believed in carrying momentum through, about playing the type of football that's got us in there (the finals) and not changing anything, and if anything me being more attacking minded."

"That's why to have Robbie Kruse, Archie and Dan Allsopp in the same outfit is really exciting."

"It's about backing your experience, backing your quality of players and going with what you do best, and that's playing attacking football."

But Gold Coast coach Miron Bleiberg says a full strength victory line-up holds no fears for his side.

"I expect him to put his best team on the field and funny enough the only game we beat them they had a full team," Bleiberg said.

"Twice when he didn't have a full team we didn't beat them so maybe that's something for him to think back on."

"But look, we'll cope with everything and the advantage is that the three of them haven't played much football together so if he thinks that's his best team I wouldn't tell him to change his mind."

Meanwhile, Bleiberg backed his defence despite conceding seven goals in their previous two outings against Brisbane Roar and Central Coast.

He says a heavy schedule and a growing injury toll contributed to his side's poor end to the regular season but is adamant they can turn things around on Sunday.

Bas van den Brink, Bruce Djite, Joel Porter and Robson are all in some doubt for the Victory clash.