Merrick backs sky-high Mitch

Melbourne coach Ernie Merrick has given a remarkable endorsement to goalkeeper Mitch Langerak ahead of his home debut against Queensland this Sunday, saying the sky's the limit for the 20-year-old stopper.

Melbourne coach Ernie Merrick has given a remarkable endorsement to goalkeeper Mitch Langerak ahead of his home debut against Queensland this Sunday, saying the sky's the limit for the 20-year-old stopper.

Langerak comes in to replace the suspended Michael Theoklitos, who was red-carded in the second half of Saturday's match against the Central Coast Mariners. Having shone in his 30-minute cameo in Gosford, Langerak is ready to take whatever challenge confronts him according to Merrick.

"That's the benefit of being able to play him in practice games pre-season," Merrick said. "(On Saturday) Mitch went into a defensive corner situation and he plucked a ball out of the air under extreme pressure. I think that's the difference between a naive young goalkeeper and a keeper that has confidence. We have high expectations of Mitch and have no problems throwing him in at the deep end," he said.

Langerak has long been touted as one of the rising stars of Australian football, having represented his country at underage level. Unfortunately he is three months too old for the next Olympic campaign, but Merrick doesn't expect that will derail him in his career progression.

"We're all very impressed by him. And it's a case of how he progresses and how he copes with the upside and the downside. There's no limit to where Mitch can go, he's high quality, he's got a great build, great agility and an attitude which is second to none," he said.

Melbourne will need to call up a back-up keeper to sit on the bench on Sunday, with Gary Cole finalising paperwork for Victorian Premier League player Lou Acevski.

"(Victory goalkeeping coach) Steve Mautone's been doing a great job with him (Acevski). He fits our quality of players and type of character that we like at the club. He's been one of the boys already," Merrick said.

And Merrick thinks Langerak could be in for a busy night on Sunday, in what he expects to be an attacking game against the Roar.

"I think they are pretty desperate for points. They won't be coming here for a draw. I think they've got a tough match. They've got a midfield that's very busy. Charlie Miller scoring goals," he said. "The good thing about Queensland is that they play attacking football as well."

"We like a team to come at us. I think we've got the ability to both counter-attack and keep possession when we need to. We've got very fast strikers. Tom Pondeljak is looking even more like a striker than a midfielder. And we're very happy with his progress. Archie (Thompson)'s on fire, Danny Allsopp's looking good, Carlos (Hernandez) is terrific, so we've got the firepower to score goals."