More worries for Victory

Melbourne Victory's troubled build-up to Saturday night's Hyundai A-League blockbuster against arch-rivals Sydney FC at Telstra Dome continued on Thursday with three key players sitting out the club's final training session.

Melbourne Victory's troubled build-up to Saturday night's Hyundai A-League blockbuster against arch-rivals Sydney FC at Telstra Dome continued on Thursday with three key players sitting out the club's final training session.

But while Melbourne coach Ernie Merrick, who is already missing star striker Archie Thompson to suspension, insists both skipper Kevin Muscat and experienced defender Roddy Vargas will play - but midfielder Nick Ward is in doubt due to illness.

All three sat out training at Olympic Park on Thursday with Muscat officially rested from the session according to the club while Vargas has an infected toe and Ward is on antibiotics and in a race against time to be fit for Melbourne's biggest home game of the season.

But despite the Victory's less than ideal build-up - after Thompson copped a two-match suspension earlier in the week after being sent off for swearing at the referee during last week's 1-0 loss in Newcastle (the Victory's fourth red card in eight games this season) - Merrick is upbeat about Saturday night's top-of-the-table clash.

"Both Sydney and ourselves lost last week so we will both look to bounce back and go after the three points," he said.

"I can't see Sydney, with the atmosphere of Telstra Dome, coming down here and playing for a draw and I think they will be out to win and play attacking football and we will be the same."

A win for third-placed Sydney will see them leapfrog league leaders Melbourne on the table but Sydney has problems of its own and could be without two key defenders in Tony Popovic (hamstring) as well as the suspended Iain Fyfe.

But Merrick insists there is no way Muscat will miss Saturday night's game despite missing training on Thursday.

"He is on a modified training program but I can't imagine Kevin ever not playing against Sydney because he always looks forward to that one."

"As for Roddy Vargas he has an infected toe - it has been lanced and he is on antibiotics but there shouldn't be a problem with him but Nick Ward, who called in with a virus, is the only one who might be in doubt."

Merrick says he is hoping the club has now put its disciplinary problems this season behind it - admitting that finishing four matches this season with just ten men has cost his team points and the outright lead at the top of the table with Victory currently level on top with Adelaide.

"I don't think it (the spate of red cards this season) has tarnished the image of the club - they are one-off offences from boys that have never had a red card before but it's frustrating for the coaching staff," Merrick said.

"But it's even more frustrating for the players that have to battle out there with ten players and we have done it far too often and it just puts an added load on the players."

"We have never been beaten yet (this season) with 11 players on the park so we intend in the future to keep 11 players out on the park and be a lot more disciplined about the way we go about our football."