Merrick unmoved by GCU injuries
An injury crisis at Gold Coast United is not registering on Melbourne Victory's radar ahead of Saturday's clash at Etihad Stadium.
An injury crisis at Gold Coast United is not registering on Melbourne Victory's radar ahead of Saturday's clash at Etihad Stadium, with coach Ernie Merrick saying he didn't expect Miron Bleiberg's team to be any less difficult than it was when the sides met in September.
Melbourne won that contest at Skilled Park 3-2 and hosts Gold Coast for the first time on Saturday with the visitors only having 12 senior players to choose from as the club has been wracked by injury and suspension.
Gold Coast has lost first-choice defensive pairing Bas Van den Brink and Kristian Rees while first-choice keeper Jess Vanstratten is also out but Merrick is not changing his approach to the match, saying Gold Coast is far from an easy beat.
"I would never say that about any team in the league. This is a game where we've got to show that we defend well, and attack and defend as a group and I feel that we've let down our fans playing at home and conceding goals. We've not been defending well. This is a very important game for us," he said.
"This team are third top on the ladder, they've got a lot of good players (Joel) Porter, (Shane) Smeltz, (Jason) Culina and what we've really done is focus on playing our best football against a really tough opponent and playing to our strengths , both offensively and defensively. We've avoided looking at what the opposition team is going to be."
Given the changes that Gold Coast has been forced to make, they will have somewhat of an element of surprise against Melbourne which it has only played once prior.
"There's always that element of unpredictability when new players and clubs come in, but we haven't focused on that at all, we want to get our game right, we want to defend well, we want to attack well, we want to retain possession of the ball," Merrick said.
Melbourne leads the table at the moment, but a poor home record, with just two wins from eight games, has some doubting its credentials. The coach himself is rapt with where his team is at, saying that his team is in a better position than it was 12 months ago.
"The facts are that we are ahead of where we were last year when we won the treble. We're playing good quality football, more away from home than at home, those are the facts. However, you're judged, you're judged, and I think our fans are aware of what we've been able to achieve," Merrick said.
Melbourne will go into the game full of enthusiasm after a win away to Brisbane last week but Tom Pondeljak and Surat Sukha remain sidelined.
"The boys are on top of the world and we've really pushed them the last couple of weeks. The enthusiasm has been great. We've got Surat and Tom Pondeljak over their injuries, but they won't be part of Saturday's match," Merrick said.
"We've got boys who want to cement their place. Boys who come on and did well like Mitch (Langerak), Wardy (Nick Ward) and Robbie Kruse, it just adds to the motivation of everyone fighting for a first XI place and given we've won seven out of our last nine, there's really good morale."