Third time lucky for Tom?

Tom Pondeljak needs no reminder that his last two Hyundai A-League Grand Finals have resulted in defeats but the experienced midfielder is using the disappointment of those losses and the memory of three NSL titles as a spur ahead of Saturday week's decider.

Tom Pondeljak needs no reminder that his last two Hyundai A-League Grand Finals have resulted in defeats but the experienced midfielder is using the disappointment of those losses and the memory of three NSL titles as a spur ahead of Saturday week's decider.

Pondeljak played in the 2005/06 and 2007/08 Grand Finals for Central Coast, losing both games 1-0. He is desperate to avoid becoming the first A-League player to lose three, but with fond memories of successes with Melbourne Knights, Sydney Olympic and Perth Glory in the NSL, is very positive about his team's chances.

"I won a couple of old NSL Grand Finals. At the moment I'm concentrating on trying to win an A-League Grand Final and I think it's a good an opportunity as any. We've given ourselves every opportunity this year. We've got ourselves into a Grand Final," he said.

"I've played in a couple of losing Grand Finals and I don't want to repeat those emotions. Hopefully this time around, I'll be on the winning team."

The question of whether a one-week break between the Major Semi-Final and the Grand Final is an advantage is one Pondeljak knows all about having gone through the same thing last year. But he is not concerned about Melbourne losing its focus with the week off.

"I don't think we'll lose any momentum to be honest. I think we'll have quite a relaxed week this week and iron out a few nigglies the boys have got. Just refresh, regroup and full steam ahead next week," he said.

"Last year, I was carrying a bit of an injury into the final game so if anything, it probably helped my cause. Most of the players, when I spoke to them, they were happy to have the week off. It didn't disturb them or put them off."

Melbourne will not know its opponent until Saturday night when Adelaide hosts Queensland at Hindmarsh Stadium in the Preliminary Final. Pondeljak did not express a preference for either team and said Victory will be ready no matter what happens.

"I've got no preference to be honest. I think the boys are quite confident. Obviously Adelaide and Queensland are both great sides. Adelaide has dropped off against us in the past couple of weeks, but in saying that, any team which has got that quality, they can bounce right back the following week. We've got no preferences, we're just happy we are in a Grand Final," he said.

"Queensland are a great side, they've got a lot of mobility, and I think if anything we're quite similar in the style of play. We both like to attack, we've got very mobile midfielders. They'll be a hard team to play. Whether it's them or Adelaide we'll be doing our homework on both sides and we'll see what happens after the weekend."

While the extremities of the park, in the defence and attack, have received much of the praise this year, Victory's midfield have done an excellent job considering the personnel changes in the off-season.

Pondeljak and Billy Celeski, who both only arrived at the club 12 months ago, have started 39 of a possible 46 combined games together in the midfield, providing versatility, strength and stability in the middle of the park.

"(Coach) Ernie (Merrick) was trying a few formations at the start of the seasons, and players were a little bit out of form like myself. It came to the stage where any player who takes the opportunity in the middle of the park, you've obviously got to take it. We've been quite stable in the last 10 to 12 weeks and it's put us in a good position for the final series," he said.

The understanding between that pairing, plus Carlos Hernandez and Nick Ward, has made Melbourne a force to be reckoned with on every line. The discipline of the other three has allowed Hernandez to play a more advanced role and that paid dividends when the Costa Rican set up three goals and scored one himself on Saturday.

"Carlos is a very influential player when he is on his game," Pondeljak said.

"In the last month or so, he's really picked up the pace and he's been absolutely outstanding for us. The options that he gives the boys up front and even through the running midfielders is second to none, we're just very glad that Carlos is fit and firing."