Franjic to fill Leijer's shoes

Teenage defender Petar Franjic will be thrown in the deep end and make his debut for Melbourne Victory against Sydney FC on Saturday night after Adrian Leijer was ruled out with a quad strain.

Teenage defender Petar Franjic will be thrown in the deep end and make his debut for Melbourne Victory against Sydney FC on Saturday night after Adrian Leijer was ruled out with a quad strain.

Leijer suffered the injury in last week's 4-1 loss to Adelaide and while the Victory were initially hopeful he would be able to take his place, especially with skipper Kevin Muscat suspended for this match, the club decided not to risk further injury.

That opens the door for Franjic, who has impressed in the National Youth League, to make his Hyundai A-League debut as one of three changes for the match at the Sydney Football Stadium.

"Adrian Leijer has got a small tear in his quad, he got it in the first half of last week," coach Ernie Merrick said. "Petar Franjic will start this week in his place."

"Evan Berger's got a tight hamstring. So that's not worth the risk. From the squad last week, there's three changes. We're bringing in Tommy Pondeljak, Matthew Foschini and Petar Franjic."

While three enforced changes to a team which is already missing first choice players such as Archie Thompson, Matthew Kemp, Robbie Kruse and Surat Sukha ahead of such a crucial match is hardly ideal, Merrick will not alter his plan to play for all three points, as Melbourne battle for a spot in the top six.

"We still feel as though we've got a very good team and it's very important we go out to win all the remaining games. We're going up there for three points. We're not going up there to draw," he said.

Merrick will retain faith with striking duo Danny Allsopp and Ricardinho, despite an underwhelming attacking performance from the Victory against Adelaide on Sunday.

"We're not looking at changing that. I'm a great one for continuity. It's about reading the play and timing the passes for these guys, and to me Ricardinho and Danny are all the better off for playing together for a full game last week," he said.

"It's beginning to work more and more and Mate Dugandzic is always a good option off the bench. He's got a knack of popping up and scoring goals."

Sydney are no strangers to multiple squad changes themselves and they go into this match without the services of strike pair Alex Brosque and Mark Bridge, while their two goal scorers last week, Dmitri Petratos and Juho Makela, won't be familiar to the Victory players having come into the side over the past month.

But Merrick does not feel that the different personnel in the opposition line-up will change the way he approaches the Sky Blues.

"We've obviously looked at how they've played and the personnel they've had in the last couple of weeks. We'll look at stopping their forward play. But to win a game it's all about how we control possession and how we go forward. We're always trying to improve that," he said.