Merrick wary of Reds' form
Ernie Merrick believes Adelaide's win over Sydney represents a stronger indication of the Reds' hopes of upsetting his team than the fact Aurelio Vidmar's team has lost seven straight matches against Melbourne.
Melbourne coach Ernie Merrick believes Adelaide's win over Sydney last week represents a stronger indication of the Reds' hopes of upsetting his team at Etihad Stadium on Saturday than the fact Aurelio Vidmar's team has lost seven straight matches against Melbourne.
Adelaide is attempting to end the longest hoodoo in Hyundai A-League history having not beaten Melbourne in over two years, but Merrick said that history is only so helpful in the build-up to this week's match.
"It doesn't mean anything. We've built up a really healthy rivalry with Adelaide. The matches are usually really exciting, it's usually end-to-end stuff and we'll be taking nothing for granted. It will be a really tough game for us at home," Merrick said.
"Teams change, motivation changes. We struggled against Sydney (two weeks ago), they beat Sydney with 10 players. So they are a quality outfit and it will be a tough game."
Melbourne recorded six wins over Adelaide last season, including the 1-0 grand final success the previous time the two teams met at Etihad Stadium.
In Round 7 this season, Melbourne put a sluggish start to the season behind it to win 2-0 at Hindmarsh Stadium and add to its astonishing streak. Merrick admits that the challenge of taking on the Reds brings the best out of his players.
"I think they are one of the teams that certainly some of the boys raise their games for. We always play good quality football against them. But having said that, I think they play good quality football against us as well," he said.
Out of necessity, Adelaide played two up front last week against Sydney in the absence of skipper Travis Dodd. The partnership between Matthew Leckie and Cristiano worked wonders, with the latter scoring two goals.
Merrick said he'd be surprised if Vidmar changed his game plan this week, despite the likelihood of Dodd's return.
"I thought they played exceptionally well for 83 minutes with 10 men against Sydney, so I can't see them changing that side too much other than probably bringing back the captain Dodd. I think they are in a good position at the moment, they will have a strong side and I expect young Leckie will play alongside Cristiano, I can't see that changing," he said.
Melbourne goes into the game without Rody Vargas for the first time in almost two seasons due to a thigh injury, while Tom Pondeljak will also miss. But Merrick is confident in the depth he has and has endorsed youngster Matthew Foschini to fill the gap left by Vargas.
"Rody's a regular, he's a stalwart, he's always there and he does a good job," Merrick said. "But having said that we've got young Matthew Foschini who's been excelling in the National Youth League and has been training very well. He's full of confidence. It might be the time to throw him in."
The other inclusion into the Melbourne squad is Thai international Sutee Suksomkit, who is set to play at least some of Saturday's match. The 31-year-old says he is looking forward to his first taste of the Hyundai A-League.
"It's a great chance for me to show what I can do tomorrow," Suksomkit said. "I've been very impressed with the A-League, it's a better league than Thailand or Singapore and I think it will be a good test for me."