Victory lose Hernandez, Brebner

Melbourne Victory will go into the first match of their AFC Champions League campaign against Gamba Osaka in Japan next Tuesday without experienced hands Grant Brebner and Carlos Hernandez.

Melbourne Victory will go into the first match of their AFC Champions League campaign against Gamba Osaka in Japan next Tuesday without experienced hands Grant Brebner and Carlos Hernandez.

Victory leave for Osaka on Sunday morning hoping to perform better than their previous two ACL campaigns, where they were eliminated in the group stage. But neither Brebner nor Hernandez will be on the flight as they bid to rediscover their fitness after injury-interrupted conclusions to the A-League season.

"Brebs is not looking good. In his effort to get ready for last week's game he's re-strained his calf slightly, so he's not looking good," coach Ernie Merrick said.

Hernandez, who hasn't started in close to a month after suffering a groin injury, is still trying to get back to peak fitness and Merrick feels he is better served leaving him in Australia to train.

"Carlos is struggling to get fit, He's suffered so many injuries, He's struggled to train and coming on 15 minutes here and there, he's really struggled to survive. I think to would be a huge risk to take him and expect him to do a job in midfield," he said.

"If you play him as a striker, well you've got Archie Thompson, Danny Allsopp and Robbie Kruse in that area. It makes more sense not to take him.

Thompson will play having not started since injuring his hamstring in December, while Matthew Kemp and Surat Sukha have recovered from injuries suffered before and during the Gold Coast match respectively.

Tom Pondeljak is the only other doubt having picked up a knock which forced him out of training on Friday.

Returning to the side will be Kevin Muscat, following his eight-match suspension, in what will be his farewell tour for the club. Merrick said the enforced break had helped the 37-year-old freshen up and rediscover his fitness.

"Sometimes that works in your favour because you can really train. When you are playing each week, there's only so much training you can do. When you aren't, you can train much, much harder. He's been training very hard. He's also got tremendous hunger, sitting on the sidelines," the coach said.

Youngster Petar Franjic is likely to make way for Muscat, while Adrian Leijer is expected to fill Brebner's shoes at the base of midfield.

Despite the availability of new recruit Tando Velaphi, Merrick expects Michael Petkovic to retain his spot as No.1 keeper. "I would say that if we re-sign Petka (after the ACL), he would remain our No.1. Tando has come over because he feels this is the right place to learn to take the next step," he said.