Victory ready for six-point derby

Both Melbourne Victory coach Ernie Merrick and captain Kevin Muscat are adamant that Saturday's derby against Melbourne Heart at Etihad Stadium represents a six-pointer, with both teams locked in a battle for a spot in the finals.

Both Melbourne Victory coach Ernie Merrick and captain Kevin Muscat are adamant that Saturday's derby against Melbourne Heart at Etihad Stadium represents a six-pointer, with both teams locked in a battle for a spot in the finals.

The teams have split their two matches to date, with Heart getting the points 2-1 in the first game and Victory 3-1 in the second. But Muscat believes that this match is about much more than local bragging rights, with a defeat here likely to do major damage to his side's hopes of regaining the championship.

"We're fully focused on getting three points. Not only is it a derby this week, but for us, it's an opportunity to consolidate our position in the top six. That's what we are aiming to do," he said.

Merrick thinks that anything less than a win for the fifth-placed Victory would cause harm to their finals prospects, but that a return to the stadium where they have had some of their greatest successes will be a boost.

"It's absolutely crucial for us that we get six points. It really is a six-point match for both clubs. We're going out at a stadium we really enjoy playing at, here at Etihad. We've had some massive crowds here, we've won two championships here," he said.

There is a strong likelihood that the crowd could exceed 30,000 and break the Hyundai A-League record this season, adding further to the atmosphere of a match which is about much more than rivalry.

"In terms of when the game has come, it couldn't have been timed any better," said Muscat, who returns to the team after a week's suspension. "It gives us a great opportunity with a game in hand to consolidate that place in the top six. It will also allow us to harm their chances."

"In all reality, it's about trying to make the top six and it couldn't have come at a better time in the competition."

Merrick ruled out any prospect of Archie Thompson making a last-ditch bid to prove his fitness for this game, while Adrian Leijer will miss again through injury.

Matthew Kemp will most likely come back into the starting line-up while Mate Dugandzic could also start.

Muscat believes his side has the clear edge going into the match despite missing several of their first-choice XI.

"We're relatively comfortable where we are. We know that if we play anywhere near our potential, we can get the right result. We come back to Etihad where we have great results. It's set up perfectly," he said.