Ney hole to fill for Victory

Melbourne Victory was never likely to play four attacking players in Saturday's match against Central Coast, even before Ney Fabiano was suspended, according to coach Ernie Merrick.

Melbourne Victory was never likely to play four attacking players in Saturday's match against Central Coast, even before Ney Fabiano was suspended, according to coach Ernie Merrick.

The Brazilian will miss nine matches through suspension, unless an appeal is successful this week. But that hasn't affected Merrick's short-term planning and he admitted he would have probably been forced to leave one of his 'four hooligans', as he likes to call them, out for the clash against the Mariners.

"I think what we've done, is one game we've taken the risk of playing four out-and-out attacking players. Apart from that, all the way through the Pre-Season cup and the first three leagues games, we've played with a front three, rather than a front four," he said.

"When we didn't have Archie, Ney filled in in Archie's role. I don't think it will change the way we play. We took a big risk against Adelaide and it worked for us, but I'm not sure I would have done that in away game against the Mariners."

Merrick said the attacking strategy remains in place despite Ney Fabiano's absence.

"We're not changing the way we play strategically in our terrific run which sees eight games for one loss," he said.

In fact, Merrick slightly underplayed his team's good form. Since losing the opening Pre-Season Cup match against Adelaide, Melbourne has gone seven matches without defeat, including six wins.

Despite that strong run of form and the fact Victory demolished Central Coast 5-2 on New Year's Eve last season, Merrick does not expect the Mariners to sit back and play for a draw.

"Lawrie's (McKinna) and Fergie's (Ian Ferguson) team have always been a very attacking team and a pressing team. They go out for the win, the same as ourselves. I think that's why it's usually an end to end affair," he said.

"They're always high-quality games, I expect them to come at as and they always play attacking football."

Merrick said he was not concerned the saga over Ney Fabiano's suspension had affected his players in the lead-up to this match. He said his men were 100 percent behind the Brazilian and were focussed on beating the Mariners.

"The players are always made aware of any situation within the camp. They are never kept in the dark. They're fully aware of it. The players know their job is to go out and win matches and that's what they are firmly focussed on," he said.