Melbourne Victory striker Archie Thompson will not be rushed back into the line-up if he is not ready says coach Ernie Merrick.
The A-Leagueâ€™s all-time leading scorer has not played since injuring his hamstring in the December 18 win over Perth Glory and with reports that he broke down in the week leading up to the third derby with the Heart which ended in a 2-2 draw on January 22, Merrick is likely to go easy this time around.
With one game to go before finals (against Adelaide United on February 11), Merrick says he will remain cautious with Thompson who could be a key figure once the playoffs are underway.
"It's always ideal to have a run before the big pressure is on, we're good at coping with pressure, but we won't take a risk," Merrick said.
"He might be available for 15-20 minutes (of the Adelaide game) and, if he could, then that would be first-class."
And Thompsonâ€™s return would only compliment what the two-time A-League champions have been able to achieve in their past three matches.
Three clean sheets, seven goals, and three wins has seen them secure a top-six position with the likes of Danny Allsopp, Mate Dugandzic and the returning Robbie Kruse all getting in on the action.
Merrick said it was perfect for his side to have some downtime now before preparing for their 30th regular season match and then a cut-throat final, likely to be against Gold Coast United at Skilled Park if the table remains the way it is now.
"The break is important, we've split the group into two, the boys who have played non-stop we won't see until Monday. They need to come back physically and mentally fresh, the other boys (doing rehab) will work with our support staff," Merrick added.
"We aimed to achieve a finals berth after 30 rounds, we've made it after 29 - it's (now) about producing our best performance in our first final because there's no second chance."