Vargas embraces captaincy

Rodrigo Vargas will take the captain's armband in Saturday's match against Brisbane at Etihad Stadium, stepping in to lead Melbourne Victory in Kevin Muscat's injury-enforced absence.

Rodrigo Vargas will take the captain's armband in Saturday's match against Brisbane at Etihad Stadium, stepping in to lead Melbourne Victory in Kevin Muscat's injury-enforced absence.

Muscat is set to miss the next 4-6 weeks after suffering a hamstring tear in last week's 2-0 loss to Central Coast and coach Ernie Merrick has endorsed his fellow defender to lead the side in the 36-year-old's absence.

"Rody's been a tremendous player for us. He's cool and calm at the back. I could have gone with Dan (Allsopp), Brebs (Grant Brebner), Archie (Thompson), but I've given it to Rody this week. I'll keep Rody while Kevin's out. There'd be a number of leaders out there, the armband means something, but there's a lot of good leaders out there," Merrick said.

Vargas was happy to step up to lead the side out, but knows it is a big leadership gap to fill.

"They are massive boots to fill. Kevin's leader of the club and the captain of the team. For me, it's a big responsibility and honour. I'm happy to do the job. On the field, there are 11 leaders and 11 captains and I'll be doing my bit to help the boys," he said.

It will be the first time in 31 games that both players haven't started for Melbourne, with the last game Muscat missed being a match against the Perth Glory in December 2007.

Despite having something like 2700 consecutive minutes of Muscat by his side, Vargas has backed Matthew Kemp to do the job asked of him in the centre of defence.

"It's going to be a big effort for everyone. There's no two way about it. Kevin's going to be a massive loss on the field and off the field. But we feel we've got the squad to cover it and it's a big challenge for us to step up. I think every player's going to take that on board and hopefully prove a lot of people wrong," he said.

Kemp and Vargas may not be the biggest defensive pairing going around, both are under six-foot tall, but this week's skipper has no major concerns about being caught short in the air from corners or free kicks.

"Musky's not six-foot-four or anything like that. Set pieces are something we are working on. We've analysed that through the week and it's something we'll work on throughout the season. We think we've got quality players and enough experience to handle that," he said.

Merrick has brought Thai international Surat Sukha into his squad, while he said he is yet to finalise his plans for the defence, apart from Kemp moving in from the right. Nick Ward, Leigh Broxham, Billy Celeski and Sukha are all a chance to be used at right back, while Merrick could also opt for a back three.

"I'll leave it until tomorrow, the final session. I usually make the decision when I have to and that will be after the last session. There's good competition for that spot," Merrick said.

"I can't give away too many secrets. We're very good at changing formations during a match and I thought in the second half we changed our formation slightly and I thought we really pressed them hard last week. But the final strike wasn't good enough," he said.

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