Victory keep getting better: Merrick

Melbourne Victory coach Ernie Merrick believes the quality of football put on by his team so far this season exceeds that of the club's championship winning year in the Hyundai A-League two seasons ago.

Melbourne Victory coach Ernie Merrick believes the quality of football put on by his team so far this season exceeds that of the club's championship winning year in the Hyundai A-League two seasons ago.

With a third of the 2008/09 season now completed, Victory heads into this weekend's break for international matches in great shape - two points clear on top of the table and with star trio Michael Thwaite, Carlos Hernandez and Michael Theoklitos all set to return for the club's next match in Newcastle on October 18.

Melbourne has lost just one game all season but despite a testing period coming up with six of the club's next nine games away from home - Merrick could not be happier with how the club is positioned going into the middle stage of the season.

"I would say our quality (this season) in regards to position play, short inter-passing and playing balls out of defence and getting into goalscoring positions is the best we have had," Merrick said on Thursday.

Merrick said the depth within his squad this season was where the club has improved on since the last campaign - where it failed to make the finals after becoming the first club to finish both as minor premier and championship winners in the same season in 2006/07.

"Our brand hasn't changed but it's the quality of the players that has changed," Merrick said of Victory's improvement this season.

"We had a great team in year two and year three was stronger but we couldn't get them all on the field with injuries."

"But this year we have got even better players in depth so we can play that brand of football and it's all about having the quality we have so far and that is what our supporters and members come to watch."

Now Merrick is just hoping this weekend's round of World Cup qualifiers does not disrupt his team's momentum with Archie Thompson representing the Socceroos while defensive midfielder Jose Luiz Lopez is off with the Costa Rican national team.

"Sometimes you get nervous no doubt about it (when players head off for international duty) especially when Archie goes off because he always comes back injured. But I am hoping that Jose Luiz Lopez comes back okay but injuries aside it's great for them to be able to represent their country."

But regardless of how Thompson and Lopez fare in upcoming World Cup qualifiers, the Victory is set to have a much-strengthened team for the trip to Newcastle with the return of number one keeper Theoklitos from suspension as well as defender Thwaite and attacking midfielder Hernandez from injury.

"Carlos couldn't go (to play for Costa Rica) because of a slight hamstring tear but he should come good for the Newcastle game and Thwaite should be good to go as well," Merrick said.