Merrick: No room for error

Ernie Merrick says there is simply no room for error for Melbourne Victory when its AFC Champions League campaign goes firmly on the line against Chinese club Beijing Guoan on Wednesday night.

Ernie Merrick says there is simply no room for error for Melbourne Victory when its AFC Champions League campaign goes firmly on the line against Chinese club Beijing Guoan on Wednesday night.

Despite losing its first three matches in the group stage by a combined total of seven goals while not scoring one in reply, Melbourne revived its hopes of reaching the knockout stage of Asia's premier club competition for the first time when it beat Japanese team Kawasaki Frontale 1-0 in its last home match a fortnight ago.

That win put Melbourne on three points from four games - level with Kawasaki - and only three points behind second-placed Beijing, which beat the Victory 1-0 in China in the opening group game back in late February, with Korean side Seongnam all but assured of top place after winning its first four matches.

However Merrick believes his team is still more than capable of sneaking second place in the group provided it wins its remaining two matches, although it faces a tough trip to Seongnam in the final round.

"It's a game we have to win," Merrick said of the clash against Beijing.

"Beijing is on six points, we are on three and if we can win the game we are equal with them in second spot and it gives us a chance (of qualifying)."

"But if we don't win or even if we draw, we don't have a chance of finishing second."

But just because of the must-win nature of Wednesday night's game it doesn't mean that Victory coach Merrick will throw caution to the wind and attack at all costs.

"We have to win but our approach always has been let's attack teams but off a sound defensive base," he said.

"You can never throw caution to the wind in any game- whether it's the A-League or the Asian Champions League, especially the ACL."

Merrick said Melbourne had enjoyed its best preparation yet for an ACL game this campaign - after struggling in its first three matches when the competition was on at the same time as the recently completed Hyundai A-League finals series - but unfortunately this has been off-set by injury and illness to key players.

As well as being without suspended central defender Adrian Leijer, Melbourne is also expected to miss veterans Tom Pondeljak and Grant Brebner due to hamstring injuries while Nick Ward and midfield playmaker Carlos Hernandez are both battling illness with Merrick indicating on Tuesday that neither is likely to be fit to play for 90 minutes.

Merrick said Ward was in by far the better health of the pair and was likely to start against Beijing but was unlikely to play the full game while the best the club could hope for with Hernandez - given he was still too ill to even train on Tuesday - was to use him off the bench, probably as a second-half substitute.