No Kruse for Victory

Melbourne Victory will go into their opening game of the Hyundai A-League season without a recognised striker with Robbie Kruse ruled out with a hamstring injury.

Melbourne Victory will go into their opening game of the Hyundai A-League season without a recognised striker with Robbie Kruse ruled out with a hamstring injury.

The 21-year-old has failed to come up after suffering a slight setback during the week leading up to the match against Sydney and coach Ernie Merrick said that the club wouldn't risk him at such an early stage of the season.

"He won't play. It's not a tear. it's tightness in his hamstring. It's the first game of the season and given we've got a few games ahead of us, we didn't want to risk it, so he won't be available," Merrick said.

"That's the only injury we've had through the shortened seven-week pre-season which has been very intense. Everyone else is pretty well right. We've got more players available now than we had for the Grand Final."

Kruse's absence for Saturday's game combined with the long-term injury to striker Archie Thompson, will mean that Merrick will have to use at least one of his midfield players in a more attacking role. There is no shortage of candidates, with Tom Pondeljak, Mate Dugandzic, Carlos Hernandez and Marvin Angulo all able to fill a role up front.

"I won't reveal that. We'll play with three up front and we've got proven goalscorers," he said. "We've got a variety of attacking options."

Hernandez's fitness for the opening game had been in some doubt because of a slow start to his pre-season, but the Costa Rican has worked hard over the past few weeks and Merrick said last year's Johnny Warren Medallist is ready to play.

"He's lost three kilos in the past four weeks. He's been training one on one with our physio twice a day and he's looking very good. He's got that big smile back on his face," he said.

Merrick revealed that Billy Celeski, who hasn't played a game since rupturing his ACL last September, would play some part on Saturday but is not ready to play a full 90 minutes.

"It's like having a new signing Billy Celeski. To have him back is just fantastic. In 11 months now, he has played two friendly games, half a game each time and in he's played 90 minutes in our 11 v 11s. I don't think he's got 90 minutes in him, but he's just been playing great football," Merrick said.

"I haven't decided if I'll start him or not, He'll certainly get game time. He's just been so impressive at training."