Muscat's arm a sore point Print E-mail
Written by Daniel Brettig & Guy Hand, AAP   
Wednesday, 05 September 2007 23:00

Melbourne Victory flew into Adelaide re-assured by the signature of coach Ernie Merrick but facing staunch opposition to the selection of captain Kevin Muscat for tomorrow night's A-League grand final rematch.

Adelaide United coach Aurelio Vidmar flagged his concern at Muscat's request for approval to play against Adelaide with a guard to protect his fractured wrist.

Football Federation Australia has left the final decision up to the match referee, but Vidmar was adamant there would be too much danger for Muscat and other players, citing an example from a recent local league fixture.

Given Muscat's famously physical approach to the game, Vidmar felt there was little chance of his players not feeling the brunt of any such guard at some stage during the 90 minutes.

"I'm not really sure with the ruling, (but) I do have a problem with it, absolutely.

"Speaking to (United director of football) Michael Petrillo, he said the precedent was set in the Federation cup final here with (Adelaide City player) Adriano Pellegrino wearing a brace.

"He wasn't allowed to wear it, and then re-fractured it. So it's dangerous, no matter what sort of cast is on your arm, even a plastic one is very hard so that poses a threat.

"I believe it's up to the referee's discretion on matchday. Not sure if they've had a final ruling, but in my books you shouldn't be able to play with one."

The guard dispute is another chapter in the heated rivalry between Adelaide and Melbourne, which reached fever pitch during last season's finals series before the Victory sent United home in ruins with a 6-0 thumping in the grand final.

It will be a very different Adelaide side that runs out tomorrow night at Hindmarsh Stadium, especially with marquee signing Paul Agostino set to make his first start in place of Bruce Djite, who is unavailable due to Olyroos commitments.

The match is to take place at the same time as the Port Adelaide v West Coast AFL qualifying final at West Lakes, but Vidmar expected Hindmarsh's 16,500 seats would be all but filled by the time of the first whistle.

"It's unfortunate Port are on but not much you can do and with the performances in pre-season and our last two rounds I'd be disappointed if there wasn't a full house," he said.

Meanwhile, Merrick has put an end to doubts about his future with the Victory club, signing a new three-year contract to remain with the A-League champions until 2010.

Negotiations had been put on hold last month as the club and coach battled to iron out terms to extend Merrick's existing contract past its December expiry date.

Merrick said he had always wanted to remain with the club and had been confident a deal would eventually be done.

"I'm really happy with the outcome, because it provides a platform for us to build long-term strategies and coaching plans," Merrick said.

"It gives all our staff the confidence to build on our programs and develop our playing group not just for this current season, but for years to come."