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Jan 04, 2011   |  7:55PM AET

Muscat rested for Wellington trip

Muscat rested for Wellington trip

Inspirational captain Kevin Muscat will be missing when Melbourne Victory plays Wellington Phoenix at Westpac Stadium on Wednesday night.

Inspirational captain Kevin Muscat will be missing when Melbourne Victory plays Wellington Phoenix at Westpac Stadium on Wednesday night.

Coach Ernie Merrick revealed the former Socceroo had been rested with a view to returning for Sunday night’s blockbuster against fierce rivals Adelaide United.

“We elected to rest him from this trip to New Zealand, we’re in the middle of three games in a week and with the travel as well it’s the responsible thing to do with a 37-year-old,” Merrick said.

“Kevin’s in Melbourne and from all reports he’s training well. He’ll be back for the next home game in Melbourne against Adelaide.”

Muscat’s absence means a change in Victory’s formation, with Merrick playing a back four, marshalled by central defenders Adrian Leijer, who will wear the captain’s armband, and Rodrigo Vargas.

Matthew Kemp is back in the squad after missing two games with a groin strain and is locked in a battle for a starting spot with Evan Berger.

Victory is gunning for their fifth straight A-League win against the Phoenix, a team who has beaten the Melbourne club only once in 11 previous meetings.

But the New Zealanders have been able to fight out six draws in that period and Merrick is well aware of the significance the clash has with both clubs jostling for finals spots.

“We’re expecting typical New Zealand endeavour from the Phoenix – good hard, tough football,” Merrick said.

“We’ve had 0-0 and 2-2 draws against Wellington, so we are pretty keen to break the deadlock and we’re certainly here for a win.”

“Every game is important at this time of year, but this one is really for double points considering where we both are on the ladder.”

In other team news, Brazilian import Ricardinho comes into the starting 11 for leading marksman Robbie Kruse (Asian Cup), meaning Danny Allsopp will mark his second spell at Victory from the bench.

“Dan has been training well, but he isn’t match-fit having not played for four months, so I’ll start him off the bench,” Merrick said.

Allsopp’s return to Victory coincides with the club’s best form of the season, having gone seven games unbeaten (headlined by four wins on the trot).

“There’s no doubt momentum builds confidence, we’re working hard and having that attacking frame of mind has been important for us,” Merrick said.

“We encourage our players to have an attacking spirit and it-s just not the frontline players who score goals for us as evidenced by Diogo Ferreira and Grant Brebner scoring against the Mariners.”