Victory to play youth

Melbourne Victory will take a squad largely filled with youngsters to South Korea for their final AFC Champions League group match against Seongnam Ilhwa Chunma on Wednesday night.

Melbourne Victory will take a squad largely filled with youngsters to South Korea for their final AFC Champions League group match against Seongnam Ilhwa Chunma on Wednesday night.

Coach Ernie Merrick indicated on Saturday he would continue to blood untried players as the team rounds out a disappointing 2009/10 campaign.

The Victory sit bottom of Group E with just one win from five matches after a 0-0 draw against Beijing Guoan at Docklands a fortnight ago confirmed their elimination from this season’s competition in the group stage.

Fatigue and injuries to key players conspired against Melbourne, with players such as Archie Thompson, Grant Brebner, Billy Celeski, Matthew Kemp and Tom Pondeljak all missing at various stages.

It will be a similar scenario on Wednesday night against Seongnam, with Rody Vargas and Robbie Kruse also to sit out the match.

Instead, Merrick said youth team members such as Diogo Ferreira, Aziz Behich, Steve Hatzikostas and back-up goalkeeper Sebastian Mattei would gain valuable experience in Asia’s premier club competition.

“We’re very disappointed that we’re not playing in the next round of the Asian Champions League. But we want to go out on a high and we want to win this game,” Merrick said on Saturday ahead of the Victory’s first training session at Melbourne’s new AAMI Park.

“We will rest a couple of players like Rody Vargas who’s had a long year, and play a couple of youngsters. We’re going over there to win and there’s a good feeling in the camp.”

“I’ll be putting them (the players) back under pressure to make sure we get a result away from home. And learn from another Asian Champions League because we’re in it next year. Hopefully the draw falls for us a little bit better than it did this year.”

With Victory fans and the players getting their first look at the new stadium on Saturday, Merrick hoped it would give his team a distinct home advantage.

“What a great stadium. Knowing that we’re going to be playing in this sort of atmosphere is very exciting,” he gushed.

“We really like a quick surface … that was pretty well perfect. We have no excuses not to play great, enterprising football on this surface. It really suits us.”

“With the proximity of the stands and the fans to the players I think the crowd will be an enormous benefit in our home games.”

Captain Kevin Muscat was also full of praise for the stadium.

“It’s second to none, certainly in this country anyway,” he said of the surface.

“Certainly we’ll get the opportunity to call this home and we’ll get used to the surface. I think for the whole competition, right throughout the A-League, people will come here and enjoy playing on an immaculate surface.”

Muscat will take the field for next week’s Champions League match, despite lashing out at what he described as poor sportsmanship after the last-start loss to Beijing.

“To be honest, playing in Asia, is not all that enjoyable,” he said after the match two weeks ago.

“People going down left, right and centre, stalling for time, it’s not that enjoyable playing in the Champions League.”

On Saturday, Muscat said his comments were simply uttered out of frustration.

“We’re a proud club and we don’t like losing. I certainly don’t like losing,” he said.

“But I do understand that the Champions League is very important to Australian clubs, but I do have an opinion on other things and travel and how difficult the whole competition is to play in.”

As for whether he plays on next season, the veteran defender is yet to make up his mind.

“There’s a number of things I’ve got to consider but that will take place in due process,” he said.