Mariners rivalry pumps Merrick

Melbourne Victory's rivalries with Sydney FC and Adelaide United might receive more headlines but for sheer entertainment value it is this week's opponents in the Central Coast Mariners that so often provide the club's most memorable matches.

Melbourne Victory's rivalries with Sydney FC and Adelaide United might receive more headlines but for sheer entertainment value it is this week's opponents in the Central Coast Mariners that so often provide the club's most memorable matches.

That is the view of Victory coach Ernie Merrick, who believes his club's rivalry with the Mariners is one of the most underrated in the Hyundai A-League.

And with Melbourne Victory currently in top place after 11 rounds and with Central Coast having moved into second spot following last week's 3-0 demolition of Adelaide, this latest chapter in the great rivalry between the clubs promises to be one of the best yet.

Add the fact that the Mariners are the highest scoring team this season and Melbourne has scored the equal second most number of goals - along with Sydney - as well as having the league's best defence and Friday night's clash at Telstra Dome promises to be a must-see.

Merrick has a healthy respect for the Mariners, who are coached by a fellow Scotsman in Lawrie McKinna with the two coaches being the only two that are still with their initial clubs in what is now the fourth season of the Hyundai A-League.

"I think it's one of those games that have been very exciting over the years but no-one has caught on that this is one of the best fixtures (in the Hyundai A-League)," Merrick told www.melbournevictory.com.au on the eve of the top-of-the-table showdown against the Mariners.

Merrick said two matches in particular stood amongst the 10 league meetings Melbourne has now had against the Mariners with the record standing at four wins for Victory, three for the Mariners and three draws.

"You look at our last game (earlier this season) when we played the last half an hour with 10 players after (keeper) Michael Theoklitos was sent off and Archie Thompson scored the goal to get us a 2-2 result in the dying seconds," Merrick reflected.

"And then we had the famous game in year two (of the Hyundai A-League) when we played with nine players to come from 3-1 down to draw 3-3 so there has never been a dull game against the Mariners."

While the Mariners have the competition's leading scorer this season in Matt Simon with fellow strikers Dylan Macallister and Sasho Petrovski making up a powerful front three, Victory finally has its four best attacking players all available at the same time with Carlos Hernandez to return this week following nearly a month out with a torn quad.

And with Archie Thompson and Ney Fabiano also available again following recent suspensions to play alongside Daniel Allsopp, Merrick is confident his team has the firepower to match the Mariners.

"We definitely play well against teams that want to attack and those are the sort of games that our crowd enjoys watching," Merrick said.

"I think this game is going to have everything, it will have action, excitement, goals and hard tackling so hopefully the referees will let it flow and this is our last home game now before Christmas - now that the Adelaide game has been postponed (from December 12 to January 6) so we are hoping we will get a good crowd to watch what will be an exciting game."