Mate earns starting spot

Melbourne Victory has rewarded young gun Mate Dugandzic for his Townsville double with a starting berth in Sunday's clash against Gold Coast at AAMI Park.

Melbourne Victory has rewarded young gun Mate Dugandzic for his Townsville double with a starting berth in Sunday's clash against Gold Coast at AAMI Park.

The 21-year-old played super sub with two goals in Victory's 3-0 midweek away win over North Queensland Fury, enough to earn the nod from coach Ernie Merrick.

"He will start, he was so impressive (in Townsville)," Merrick said.

"Like any youngster they can be a little bit inconsistent, but when he's on form, he's on form."

Dugandzic, who has scored five goals in 23 appearances this campaign being deployed as an attacking midfielder/striker, isn't the only emerging youngster to feature in Victory's squad.

Teenage defender Petar Franjic has also earned a call-up and coach Merrick conceded he's thinking of bringing the 18-year-old centre back into the starting 11.

"I'm considering whether I'll start him or not, he's another defensive player who plays centrally," Merrick said.

In other team news, midfielder Billy Celeski will miss the clash with a hip injury, while Matthew Kemp comes into the side at the expense of Evan Berger.

While the North Queensland triumph was Victory's first win in five matches, the club has only lost two of their past 12 matches, an impressive run considering the absence of key players such as Archie Thompson and Robbie Kruse during that period.

Victory sits fifth on the A-League table with 37 points from 27 matches and a win over Miron Bleiberg's men would virtually seal the Melbournians a finals berth.

"There's no doubt they're a good team, fighting for second or third spot, Gold Coast is always a challenge," Merrick said.

"But we feel as we're playing some good football as well. We're building up some consistency and momentum. It's really about what we do and not so much about what the opposition offer up."

One factor which may have a bearing on the contest is the forecast temperature of 40 degrees expected in Melbourne on Sunday.

What about the coach's thoughts on that topic?

"Both teams have got to play in the conditions … I think we're well acclimatised to that type of weather, it makes for a really tough game and playing under fatigue that suits us especially in front of our home crowd at AAMI Park," Merrick said.

Merrick also revealed captain Kevin Muscat had been given some time off by Victory following his eight-match suspension for a tackle on Melbourne Heart's Adrian Zahra in the Melbourne Derby.

"We've given him a bit of a break, then we'll get together and have a chat about what's going to happen moving forward," Merrick said.

"We said from the outset we weren't going to appeal, we've accepted the FFA's sanction and we move on from there."

Fellow defender Adrian Leijer will take the captain's armband in Muscat's absence.

Kick-off is at 5pm.