Merrick ponders options

The make-up of Melbourne's makeshift defence for Saturday's clash with Brisbane at Etihad Stadium won't be finalised until the day before the game with coach Ernie Merrick keeping his options open in the absence of Kevin Muscat.

The make-up of Melbourne's makeshift defence for Saturday's clash with Brisbane at Etihad Stadium won't be finalised until the day before the game with coach Ernie Merrick keeping his options open in the absence of Kevin Muscat.

Merrick has already endorsed Matthew Kemp as Muscat's replacement in central defence but has been working on his options on the right-hand side where Kemp usually plays. Nick Ward, Leigh Broxham and Billy Celeski are among those being considered, while Melbourne has brought Thai international Surat Sukha into the squad as well.

"Over the week we've tried two or three players. Nick Ward has done very well there. He did very well when he came on last week. We've got options in Billy Celeski, we could slide out Leigh Broxham, there's Matthew Foschini, there's a variety of options," Merrick said.

"Because we've got good central midfielders, we can slide someone out. Surat will come into the squad as well. It's great to have that sort of depth."

"I'll leave it until tomorrow, the final session. I usually make the decision when I have to and that will be after the last session. There's good competition for that spot."

Merrick has been working on a number of set-ups and formations and wouldn't rule out the possibility of using a back three as he did late in last week's loss to Central Coast.

"I can't give away too many secrets. We're very good at changing formations during a match and I thought in the second half we changed our formation slightly and I thought we really pressed them hard last week. But the final strike wasn't good enough," he said.

Brisbane has traditionally played wide attacking players to support a target man, usually Sergio van Dijk, meaning that Frank Farina could pin-point the wings as a place to attack. But it's not something that overly concerns the Melbourne coach, who has faith in his team's discipline.

"Certain teams have certain strengths, whether it be in midfield or up front. We're comfortable with the depth of squad that we've got, and we can cover it quite well," he said.

However, Victory's wide defensive stocks could be stretched further, with wing-back Evan Berger leaving the training track early to ice a knock to his thigh. Merrick said it was more of a precaution than a serious concern.

"There's a number of players who have a maintenance program. It's a physical game and with little contusions etc, we always make sure we cover them really well. That's why we had the record last year for the least number of injuries in the A-League," he said.

Merrick confirmed that defender Rody Vargas would take the captain's armband for the duration of Muscat's absence.

"Rody's been a tremendous player for us. He's cool and calm at the back. I could have gone with Dan, Brebs, Archie, but I've given it to Rody this week. I'll keep Rody while Kevin's out. There'd be a number of leaders out there, the armband means something, but there's a lot of good leaders out there," he said.