Merrick: History not a factor

Melbourne coach Ernie Merrick is not banking on either history or his players' sense of rivalry to get Victory over the line in Saturday's season opener against Sydney FC.

Melbourne coach Ernie Merrick is not banking on either history or his players' sense of rivalry to get Victory over the line in Saturday's season opener against Sydney FC.

Melbourne has an imposing record against Sydney, having lost just once to the league's glamour club in nine previous matches. But that's not something Merrick takes a lot of heart from.

"It's a good record, but history really means nothing. It's 90 frenetic minutes with high emotion and high intensity, so anything can happen on the day. We've got a good record, that's terrific but the slate's clean, let go out there and do a job," he said.

Merrick said his club relished the big rivalries it has against Sydney and Adelaide, but he was conscious not to let his players get too focussed on the opposition and that they concentrated on getting their own house in order.

"We try not to let any particular game change the motivation. If the boys aren't motivated to win games, then they really shouldn't be here. They are highly-motivated to win. Inside I think the Sydney thing is just that little bit extra, but they shouldn't be doing anything other than what they normally do," he said.

Victory's players are well aware that any extra emotion taken into rivalry match could spill over, according to their coach.

"Discipline's been a key factor for us this year. We didn't have any suspensions in the Pre-Season Cup. We hardly had any yellow cards, no red cards and the last three games we didn't concede a goal. We've been working on team discipline," he said.

However, Merrick did concede that it is ideal to start a season against a big club like Sydney.

"I just think that it's great to have rivalries in sport. Australia loves that. This Sydney match is going to be a blockbuster, and I can't think of a better way to start a season than Sydney-Melbourne, whether it's in Sydney or Melbourne," he said.

Meanwhile, Merrick revealed that skipper Kevin Muscat, who missed the entire Pre-Season Cup campaign with a hamstring injury, was unlikely to play the full 90 minutes in the season-opener.

"Nothing would keep Kevin away from this match. He never really had a tear, it was tightness, and so it was a precaution not to play him. He's ready, he's fired up. I'm not sure if he's 90 minutes for this game, but he's certainly going to start. And his leadership is going to be a key," he said.

Olympic representatives Billy Celeski and Leigh Broxham will join the Melbourne squad when they arrive in Sydney on Friday. Merrick said that he would assess that pair when he gets to Sydney, but he expects Broxham to be ready to play after he didn't get any game time in China.

Merrick also revealed that Grant Brebner, who has had a horror run with a groin injury which has sidelined him for the better part of nine months, was only a week away from making himself available for selection.