Victory's A-League shake up

Facing what he says is the toughest Hyundai A-League season yet, Melbourne coach Ernie Merrick hopes that dropped points in the first month of the season won't come back to haunt his team.

Facing what he says is the toughest Hyundai A-League season yet, Melbourne coach Ernie Merrick hopes that dropped points in the first month of the season won't come back to haunt his team.

Never before has the face of the A-League changed so quickly, with several teams who struggled down the bottom of the table last season currently occupying the top spots on the table, most notably Adelaide and North Queensland.

With a crucial away match against Central Coast looming on Friday night, Merrick thinks the results so far, which have been two draws, a loss and a win haven-t been an accurate reflection of how Victory are playing.

"I would have much preferred a win in Sydney when we lost the game with just a few minutes to go and we were 2-1 up against the Fury and we conceded from a penalty," he said.

"The way we are playing, we should have had more points on the board. But having said that, we-ve got two youngsters a 20 and a 21-year-old up front, they are both wingers who have only played together twice and I think that they are doing an exceptional job."

Merrick has high expectations of his squad despite losing Archie Thompson and Matthew Kemp to injury ahead of the season, but knows the competition is as even as ever.

"I haven-t lost any heart, but my expectation is high. I think the league has improved again. It's great to see Adelaide, who finished bottom the league, now one of the top teams (under) Rini Coolen (and) Franz Straka has done a terrific job with North Queensland Fury, they are very competitive," he said.

"I think the teams are well prepared, the pre-seasons are very thorough and teams are able to attack and defend with a lot of quality and it makes life tough for teams like ourselves who have been in the past two Grand Finals. We want to be there again and hopefully we-ve improved as well."

And Merrick is confident of getting the right result against the Mariners at Bluetongue Stadium, having not lost a match there since 2007.

Melbourne will likely regain Billy Celeski for the match, while Evan Berger could miss with a corked hamstring.