Old blood is new blood

Melbourne Victory may have had a relatively quiet off-season in terms of club transfers but coach Ernie Merrick believes that continued stability plus the return to full fitness of several key players will help improve the team coming into the season.

Melbourne Victory may have had a relatively quiet off-season in terms of club transfers but coach Ernie Merrick believes that continued stability plus the return to full fitness of several key players will help improve the team coming into the season.

With the first game against Sydney just over a week away, Melbourne has made just a handful of changes to its playing squad losing goalkeepers Mitch Langerak and Glen Moss, gaining Michael Petkovic plus promoting several promising younger players.

The disappointment of narrowly missing out on silverware last season would be enough to send a lesser man into a transfer frenzy, but for Merrick and his men, it is steady as she goes heading into the new season, adding depth rather than shuffling things around.

"(The disappointment of last year) has sharpened our focus and determination to achieve something this year so we can get some silverware. But it-s all about sustaining that motivation. Knowing that we-ve got to sustain it over a very long year, 30 rounds, finals, Asian Champions League, we gave them a good month off and only did a six and half week pre-season," Merrick said.

"We've had continuity building up this squad going into the sixth season. We've promoted some of the youngsters knowing that we-ve got a long year. We are very much aiming to developing a larger squad to cope with the stresses of the year."

Merrick said that the shortened pre-season has focussed on intensity rather than duration and that given that there hasn-t been few personnel changes, he has not had to worry as much about strategic awareness.

"I haven-t had to go over strategy again. We are trying to develop strategy but we are not starting from scratch. All in all, it-s been a shorter build-up, it-s been easier because of the quality of players we-ve had and how long we-ve been with us," he said.

The only remaining position to fill in the starting XI is to find an experienced striker to fill the gap left by Archie Thompson, who will be out until January with a knee injury.

With the exception of Petkovic, there are unlikely to be any new faces in a Melbourne shirt in the opening match, but Merrick believes the return of the likes of Billy Celeski will provide the team with a sense of renewal in needs at the start of the season.

"Out of the seven players, Billy Celeski, Matthew Kemp, Archie Thompson, Surat Sukha, Robbie Kruse, Evan Berger and Tom Pondeljak, only three of them started in the Grand Final and one of them was off after 16 minutes," he said.

"To get back a lot of these players, Tom is back to full fitness, Billy is progressing really well, Surat has a bit of a hamstring, but to get a lot of them back is like signing new players."