Victory take Muscat finals gamble

Melbourne Victory football operations managers Gary Cole has conceded the club has taken a big risk by electing to challenge skipper Kevin Muscat's two match suspension from the Hyundai A-League's match review panel.

Melbourne Victory football operations managers Gary Cole has conceded the club has taken a big risk by electing to challenge skipper Kevin Muscat's two match suspension from the Hyundai A-League's match review panel.

Muscat was handed the suspension after being deemed to have committed "serious foul play" following his clash with Gold Coast skipper Jason Culina during Friday night's 1-0 loss, while the five-week suspension handed out to Gold Coast United player Steve Pantelidis will also be appealed.

But while the appeal could result in Muscat receiving a longer ban - which would rule him out of the start of the finals series in late February - if the Victory succeeds in having the suspension reduced or having the charge thrown out completely then Muscat will be available for the vital last round encounter with Sydney FC on February 14.

That match is likely to decide which team out of Melbourne and Sydney finishes in the top two along with Gold Coast with a top two finish vital to the Victory's hopes of becoming the first club to win back-to-back A-League titles.

Only the top two teams at the end of the home and away season have the opportunity of earning a home grand final - with no team yet having captured the title by winning the grand final on an opponent's home ground.

And with just two points separating Melbourne and Sydney with just two rounds remaining, the Victory believe it is worth the risk of a longer ban to have Muscat available for that huge last round clash.

"It is a risk but if you look at it that way then you are operating in fear," Cole said of the decision to challenge Muscat's ban.

"And that is not something that Kevin Muscat does and it's not something that Melbourne Victory does.

If Muscat's current two-match ban stands, he will miss the last two home-and-away games against North Queensland this Friday night at Etihad Stadium and the last-round trip to Sydney, but will be free to play in the opening weekend of the finals on February 20/21.

But the Victory, who will contest both the guilty verdict and the severity of the original suspension, are hoping that Muscat's ban could at worst be reduced to one match leaving him free to face Sydney.

"We believe it wasn't a red card offence in the first place," Cole said.

The hearing, which will be held in Sydney on Wednesday night, will also allow the Victory to introduce fresh evidence in a bid to have their skipper cleared.

"It is a new hearing so the disciplinary committee are not reviewing the match review panel's decision," Cole said.

"They are actually making the decision based on the evidence the match review panel had and any new evidence we wish to introduce."

Cole refused to condemn Muscat for getting himself reported so close to the finals and while the Victory skipper has long had a reputation as one of the game's hard men his recent disciplinary record is exemplary with his last red card being in November, 2007.

"I think we would be disappointed if our captain didn-t step up to the plate, it was a spiteful game (against Gold Coast) and he (Muscat) is a fantastic leader on and off the field," Cole said.

"And if you are going to be a successful club then you have to be prepared to get involved (in physical clashes) because this is the business end of the season and people are playing for real."