Big wraps on Mrdja

Nik Mrdja is emerging as Melbourne chief attacking weapon in the upcoming Asian Champions League campaign, with both coach Ernie Merrick and captain Kevin Muscat predicting the new recruit to make a major impression in the ACL.

Nik Mrdja is emerging as Melbourne chief attacking weapon in the upcoming Asian Champions League campaign, with both coach Ernie Merrick and captain Kevin Muscat predicting the new recruit to make a major impression in the ACL.

Melbourne is in China preparing for the tournament opener against Beijing Gouan on Tuesday night. Merrick is confident he can take the same side into the match as he did in the major semi-final first leg victory over Sydney last Thursday and thinks Mrdja will cause the Beijing defence plenty of worries.

"I think that Nik is the right asset to have up front in an Asian Champions League game. Height and strength are a bit of a major asset over there. Their goalkeeper, who is the Chinese national goalkeeper, is not the sort of player who comes at crosses or corners, either are their centre backs," Merrick said.

Melbourne has been working hard at its set plays, knowing that the majority of goals in these types of tournaments come from dead-ball situations.

"Australian players are very good at set plays. We've worked very hard at that and Nik Mrdja will be a major asset because of his aerial ability."

Mrdja only arrived at Melbourne with two weeks left in the regular season. He comes into this match having played three games for his new club and having scored a goal in the match against Sydney.

Muscat said Mrdja's adaptation to Victory's style of play has taken some time but he is starting to look very dangerous.

"Nik's only been here a short period of time and in all honesty we play a formation and style which he hasn't been accustomed," the veteran defender said. "It-s taken him a little bit of time to not only understand that but then to go out and produce it. I think the other night, the 70 minutes he was on, he caused a lot of trouble."

He said Mrdja's size and bulk may prove intimidating to the Beijing defenders, who will not enjoy playing on such a strong and tall striker.

"We harp on about Australian footballers and how big we are compared to Asian footballers. You certainly have an advantage and that is height and Nik gives us that. He can also hold up the ball and keeping that ball in attacking areas, with the number of attacking players we have in our side that can get forward it certainly helps us, moreso at this level," he said.

Mrdja will be experiencing his second Asian Champions League campaign having played three games for Central Coast in the competition last year. However, he will be looking for his first win.