Victory ready for ACL

Ernie Merrick believes his Melbourne Victory side go into next Tuesday's AFC Champions League clash against Gamba Osaka in Japan better prepared than they ever have been for the tournament.

Ernie Merrick believes his Melbourne Victory side go into next Tuesday's AFC Champions League clash against Gamba Osaka in Japan better prepared than they ever have been for the tournament.

The education of two ACL campaigns, plus the fact that Melbourne do not have to deal with domestic commitments which crippled their hopes of progressing last year, means Victory are spot on for the crucial opening match at the Expo 70 Stadium.

"I think it's an ongoing thing for coaches and players. The more experience you can have in those sort of top-level competition, the more you learn for sure," he said.

"We are certainly going over there, with a fair amount confidence that if we can play our best we can get something out of the game."

"I think there's a lot of plusses for us. Our goal is to make top two in the group. We're very firmly set on that, given we are knocked out of the finals."

Merrick revealed that Grant Brebner and Carlos Hernandez are unlikely to travel with the team, while Archie Thompson is fit to take his spot in the starting XI alongside Danny Allsopp and Robbie Kruse.

In their two previous campaigns, Melbourne have not only endured a sharp learning curve but tough draws and Merrick thinks that will serve them well this time around.

"It interesting the last two ACL campaigns, both winners came from our group. First of all it was Gamba, and we came second to them in the group and then it was Seongnam," he said.

"I don-t think it gets easier. It becomes more familiar and you get to realise that they are good teams, but when we played Seongnam in one of the last games, we took three youngsters over and we lost 3-2, and they went on to win it."

The experience of having played Gamba Osaka in the group stages in 2008 will only be of certain use, with last year's J-League runners-up having made plenty of changes, including the addition Brazilian Adriano, who scored 14 goals for cross-town rivals Cereza Osaka last season.

"They've got a coach who's been there for quite a while. We pretty well know how they play. They've changed a couple of players. They have spent 3.5 million on a new Brazilian which is our whole salary cap," Merrick said.

"But these teams are all beatable. It's about having the confidence in what you do and having the best possible experienced squad."

"We would always look for the three points and that's the way you have got to play. But obviously a draw away from home would be a good thing."

However, Merrick says he doesn't take much confidence from the fact that Gamba Osaka would have not yet started their J-League season, and might be under prepared.

"Last year we played Beijing Guoan at the start of the campaign and they played one of their best games. You have to make sure you really respect the teams, they are really well organised."