Bleiberg steps up attack

Gold Coast coach Miron Bleiberg has refused to back down from controversial comments he made in the wake of last month's encounter with Melbourne Victory, setting the scene for a fiery elimination final at Skilled Park on Sunday.

Gold Coast coach Miron Bleiberg has refused to back down from controversial comments he made in the wake of last month's encounter with Melbourne Victory, setting the scene for a fiery elimination final at Skilled Park on Sunday.

Bleiberg sparked a war of words with Victory coach Ernie Merrick when he accused Melbourne of 'brutal' and 'dirty' tactics following United's 2-0 loss at AAMI Park two weeks ago.

Speaking at the official launch of the Hyundai A-League Finals series in Sydney on Monday, a more relaxed Bleiberg expressed his unreserved respect for Merrick and the Victory's achievements.

But the colourful coach stopped short of offering an apology, insisting he is 'proud' of his comments, which he says have forced Merrick's men to 'change their ways'.

"I said what I said in the heat of the moment and the funny thing is when I watched the replay I backed what I said," Bleiberg said.

"But I didn't mean to say anything (against) Melbourne Victory, I've got full respect for them and they are, as far as my records show, the best franchise in the A-League, crowd wise and achievement wise."

"And people underestimate, but me and Ernie are probably the only two coaches in here from the opening season of the A-League, so we've got a lot in common and a lot of mutual respect."

"But I said what I said and what I said, let's put it like this, every foreign player that comes to the A-league ... you ask them 'what's your first impression of the A-league and they'll tell you 'good league but a bit rougher than what we're used to'."

"What I said will help one day to make the A-League a better league so I'm proud of what I said but I didn't mean to hurt."

Merrick, who was sharing the stage with Bleiberg, interjected: "Could you repeat the answer please? I just lost you in the middle there."

He added, when asked if his counterpart's comments will serve as added motivation when the two sides collide in Sunday's do-or-die encounter on the Gold Coast:

"I've always said that if players need extra motivation from the weather or the crowd or the stadium or from what someone says of the pitch, then the focus is all wrong," Merrick explained.

"Having that sort of chat and banter is always part of every team and every sport but I've never believed in words like revenge."

Bleiberg is hopeful Sunday's match will be played in good spirits but says his side will be ready for anything.

"We were slightly ambushed in the last game and now we'll be better prepared," he said.

"But now it looks like - I don't know if it's because of me but for any other reason - but it looks like the Victory have changed their ways."

"They conceded only three fouls in 90 minutes against Newcastle which is less than what they conceded against us in the first five minutes."

Meanwhile, both coaches were in agreement over the condition of the playing surface at Skilled Park amid reports Sunday's game could be moved due to concerns over the pitch.

"I have no concerns," Merrick said.

"Wherever we play both teams have to play there. It's fair that we play at the Gold Coast because they finished above us on the ladder."

Bleiberg added: "The pitch was always okay. It's a bit harder and quicker than most of the pitches in the A-League, it's less absorbing and less spongey but the pitch is playable."