History no help

Melbourne Victory may have won all three games against Adelaide United this season, but coach Ernie Merrick expects a much-tougher challenge when the top two teams in the Hyundai A-League meet on Saturday week in the first leg of the major semi-final.

Melbourne Victory may have won all three games against Adelaide United this season, but coach Ernie Merrick expects a much-tougher challenge when the top two teams in the Hyundai A-League meet on Saturday week in the first leg of the major semi-final.

While admitting that his players would have gained a certain level confidence from beating Adelaide twice at Telstra Dome and once at Hindmarsh Stadium over the course of the season, Merrick said that history means little in the furnace of finals football.

"We'll focus on what we're capable of. When you've won three games there's a certain confidence out of that but every game is different and everyone is up for final games," he said.

"It's when you go out on the pitch that you have to work hard, history is history. It's not what's happening in the present. It's a different viewpoint all together it's finals football and it's high pressure. It's doing things we do well, but obviously you take confidence from previous results this season."

Merrick, who guided Melbourne through a successful finals campaign two years ago, said there was a delicate balance in preparing teams for finals matches. While he wanted his players to step it up another notch, he is also wary of messing with a formula which has produced five wins in the past six matches.

"The danger with finals football is that you change your approach too much. You do have to change your approach, you can't say it's the same, there's definitely more hype around it," he said.

"There's an intensity about it and there's a mental toughness about it. You do have to step up. But you still have to focus on our role within the team."

While stability in the middle of the park has been key to Melbourne's success this season, Merrick did not rule out making some bold selection decisions in the next few weeks.

Two years ago it was bit-part player James Robinson who bobbed up with a crucial late goal against the Reds in the second-leg of the major semi-final at Telstra Dome. That goal secured Melbourne a home Grand Final, a match it would go on to win 6-0.

This year Merrick believes the likes of Evan Berger and even young striker Nathan Elasi, who is yet to figure at all this season, who could be the surprise packets.

"I think there may be a few surprises from the young players. If an opportunity arises, we've got very fast youngsters and speed is a major factor in this type of football," he said.

"Evan Berger getting back to his best, Nathan Elasi has been quiet outstanding up front at training. There is a chance someone might be a surprise package."