Depth to cover for Archie, Kevin

Melbourne coach Ernie Merrick has backed the depth of his club as Victory approaches Friday night's clash against North Queensland Fury at Etihad Stadium without its two most influential players in captain Kevin Muscat and striker Archie Thompson.

Melbourne coach Ernie Merrick has backed the depth of his club as Victory approaches Friday night's clash against North Queensland Fury at Etihad Stadium without its two most influential players in captain Kevin Muscat and striker Archie Thompson.

Thompson's foot injury is worse than first thought and he will miss at least four weeks, meaning he won't return until the second half of the finals series.

Muscat, meanwhile, will be serving the first match of a two-game ban after the club decided on Thursday not to appeal the Hyundai A-League's Disciplinary Committee's decision to uphold the original decision on Wednesday night.

But despite being without two such important players for a match Melbourne must win or risk being knocked off top spot, Merrick has faith that his available players can get the job done.

"We've got good depth and good strength up front as well as at the back," he said. "We've got a tremendous belief in the players that we have. We think we're well set up to go well in both the finals and the Asian Champions League."

Thompson's absence will be difficult to cover, with Robbie Kruse only rated a 60-40 chance of playing after injuring his AC joint in the 1-0 loss to Gold Coast last week.

"Archie has a very small hairline fracture of a bone in his foot. Our treatment has been spot on all the way and our surgeon has suggested that it doesn't need surgery at all," Merrick said.

"He has to wear one of those moon boots to take the weight and stress off his foot for about two to three weeks."

"Another week of training after that and he should be right to play for us in four weeks, which is the second part of the finals series."

It was better news on Kruse, but a decision on his fitness will not be made until match day.

"Robbie's MRI has cleared him of a serious injury to his shoulder, which is good. He trained and he trained quite well today, I won't say he's definitely playing, he's still 60-40 regarding playing. We'll see how he comes up," Merrick said.

"We'll change slightly the way we play up front and we'll utilise our attacking midfielders slightly differently."

"We'll get players forward in a different manner. But it's something we've done several times prior, so it's not completely different from the way we play."

Covering for Muscat seems less problematic, with Matthew Kemp back to full fitness and a good chance to slot in alongside Rody Vargas and Adrian Leijer in central defence.

Evan Berger could come in to replace Kemp at full back.

"I won't give too much away, but Kempy is back to full fitness now and I thought he looked terrific when he came on the other day," Merrick said. "He started last week and did very well. Evan's coming back really well. Adrian and Rody have been playing outstanding football. I think we've got lots of options there."

Leijer will take the captain's armband for Friday's game, with Merrick praising the leadership the central defender has shown since coming back from Fulham.

"He's just a very astute mature man, who's a very solid, consistent type player who leads by example. He doesn't get emotionally overrun one way or another. He's not going to emulate Kevin Muscat as a captain, he's a different type of person," he said.

Despite missing two such important players, Merrick is relishing the opportunity to take on the Fury, who must win to stay in contention for the finals.

It will also mark Robbie Fowler's first appearance at Etihad Stadium.

"Over the year we have built up good depth and boy are we looking forward to the game against Fury, when was the last time 'God' came to Melbourne?," he said.

"They've got everything to play for. They had a fantastic win against Newcastle. They are coming down here to win. It will be an open game."