No special plans for Cristiano

Cristiano may have scored two goals when Melbourne and Adelaide last met and two goals in his last match but neither Victory coach Ernie Merrick nor defender Rody Vargas are too focussed on the Adelaide marksman ahead of Friday's clash at Telstra Dome.

Cristiano may have scored two goals when Melbourne and Adelaide last met and two goals in his last match but neither Victory coach Ernie Merrick nor defender Rody Vargas are too focussed on the Adelaide marksman ahead of Friday's clash at Telstra Dome.

The Brazilian has made an impressive start to his Hyundai A-League career, including a brace when Adelaide defeated Wellington in its previous match. He has filled the gap left by the departure of Bruce Djite and Nathan Burns superbly and helped himself to a double when the Reds and Victory met in the Pre-Season Cup in Launceston.

However, while aware of his recent good form as well as his performance in that pre-season match, Merrick said he had no special plans for Cristiano.

"We know they have good quality strikers, but our defence has been very good this year. Both Kevin Muscat and Sebastian Ryall (who will come in for the injured Michael Thwaite) can really get involved in the midfield and cause problems the other way. We like to leave Vargas to keep it calm at the back and he always does a very good job," he said.

Vargas said Cristano was a handful to play on in Launceston, where he scored the winner in the 89th minute. But the defender feels he has learned from the experience.

"He's a player who likes to get involved in the midfield and he's obviously good at scoring a goal. He did catch us a little bit by surprise in that match, but we are pretty familiar with their team now," he said.

Vargas said while that match in Launceston in July was only a pre-season encounter, there was a sense of Victory wanting payback for that result.

"I don't think we like losing. We remember that loss. It was a pre-season game and we won the Pre-Season Cup, and we were taking it serious. We'll have that in the back of our minds. We don't like losing games," he said.

As well as Thwaite, Merrick will be without Jose Luis Lopez, who is on international duty with Costa Rica. Sebastian Ryall will slot in defence, while Merrick is unsure how he will structure his midfield in the absence of Lopez.

"We have to make the call of whether we play the four hooligans up front," he said. "It depends on how we feel the match will develop. But it's a great advantage to have so many attacking options."

Merrick said Grant Brebner, who scored a memorable late goal in the 5-0 rout over Newcastle, was ready to play 90 minutes, but Billy Celeski and Leigh Broxham were both in the running for defensive midfield roles as well.