Merrick keeps faith in youngsters

Melbourne Victory youngsters Petar Franjic and Diogo Ferreira are set to keep their spots in the starting line-up for Sunday's must-win final against Gold Coast United, despite coach Ernie Merrick admitting that he prefers experienced players in such important matches.

Melbourne Victory youngsters Petar Franjic and Diogo Ferreira are set to keep their spots in the starting line-up for Sunday's must-win final against Gold Coast United, despite coach Ernie Merrick admitting that he prefers experienced players in such important matches.

Franjic, 18, has come in to fill the void left by suspended skipper Kevin Muscat over the past five matches and has done a terrific job, while Ferreira has provided Melbourne with an extra dimension in both attack and defence out wide.

With experienced hands Billy Celeski and Grant Brebner both back in contention after injury, along with Surat Sukha, it appeared both youngsters would be under pressure to keep their spots.

But Merrick will opt for form ahead of reputation and doesn't see too many changes to the side which lost just one of its final six games of the season.

"I think they (Franjic and Ferreira) have proven themselves over the past six weeks. I can't see us making a change in a line-up which has performed in the last four games. We won three and we've conceded only in one game. I can't see us changing too much from that formation and those players in the squad," he said.

"I've always believed when I coach in the finals, you don't change what you do that's got you there. If anything, you play slightly more attacking football rather than play a defensive counter attacking game. It's the team who really attack the opposition that really want to win something are usually the one's that achieve."

The promise of more attacking football could mean a recall for either or both of key attacking duo Carlos Hernandez and Archie Thompson, who came off the bench against Adelaide last week.

Striker Danny Allsopp left the training track early on Friday, but Merrick was confident he would be fit to take his place.

"It's very tempting to give Archie, Carlos, Marvin, Danny Allsopp, Robbie Kruse a start. We're able to put out a very attacking line-up, we've got a very strong midfield and out defence has been fantastic," he said.

Whatever line-up he opts for, Merrick has faith he has the team to perform under pressure, especially given the team's previous strong record in finals.

"Historically we've done a terrific job, but the present is always different and it's about recreating that in the present. It is a bonus for me as a coach to have a lot of experience playing in the game, not only those who have been in finals games, but in Grand Finals," he said.

And the prospect of coming through a sudden-death route from the bottom half of the top six does not daunt Merrick.

"I think it's a good thing to be under pressure. I think the best teams perform under pressure. We don't have the double chance, but whoever gets into the Grand Final from third to sixth, only play one more game to play than the other teams. We can cope with that," he said.