Merrick eyes the future

Melbourne coach Ernie Merrick will have one eye on the future of his squad when the Victory take on Seongnam Ilhwa Chunma in their final AFC Champions League group match on Wednesday night.

Melbourne coach Ernie Merrick will have one eye on the future of his squad when the Victory take on Seongnam Ilhwa Chunma in their final AFC Champions League group match on Wednesday night.

With their qualification hopes dashed following the 0-0 draw against Beijing two weeks ago, Merrick confirmed on Tuesday that he will blood up to four youngsters, while a number of other inexperienced players will get their chance to shine.

Already without striker Archie Thompson and midfielders Matthew Kemp and Billy Celeski, the Victory travelled to South Korea without defender Rody Vargas and strikers Nik Mrdja and Robbie Kruse.

Melbourne could be further hampered with playmaker Carlos Hernandez battling illness, but Merrick has been impressed with young defender/midfielder Matthew Foschini and confirmed he'll be in the starting XI.

"We've left Rody behind, he's having a bit of a rest. Nik Mrdja has a hip injury, Robbie's ankle hasn't settled and as you know Archie, Kempy and Celeski are all out." Merrick said on Tuesday.

"So we've brought seven youngsters under the age of 21 and out of those seven, five of them are amateurs so I'm hoping that three of them at least, maybe four of them, will definitely get a run tomorrow night."

"Two, three of the boys over the last month have had a virus that keeps reoccurring, Carlos has got it now and he's reacting to the antibiotics so it will be dependent on how the boys pull up after the training session."

"Matt Foschini has been doing really well so he'll start and it really just depends on how things shape up today."

With no recognised strikers in the squad, Merrick admitted that a number of different players will rotate up forward with veteran midfielder Tom Pondeljak set to lead the attack having successfully recovered from the hamstring injury that kept him out of last month's Hyundai A-League Grand Final loss to Sydney.

Costa Rican Marvin Angulo will most likely get a rare start, while youngster Mate Dugandzic is another player who can attack the goals.

"Going again for what we always have done is going for pace and technical ability up front and players that interchange so we've got the likes of Tommy Pondeljak, Marvin Angulo, Carlos if he comes up, maybe look at young Mate Dugandzic so three or four players that can interchange up front and run at pace at the opposition," Merrick said of his forward options.

Despite having no chance of qualifying for the knockout stages and a severely depleted squad, Merrick said the team was in good spirits and confident of causing an upset against the Group E leaders.

"The boys travelled well despite the fact that we're out of ACL the spirit in the camp is good, the strong desire within the team is do well and get a win over here," he said.

"We've got a training session today and it's been very, very wet and the ground is being used for a match tonight, the other ACL game, so it's a bit of consideration over the state of the ground and whether we'll be allowed on the pitch for a training session but we've travelled well and there's a good feeling in the camp."