Culina talking tough

Star Gold Coast United midfielder Jason Culina has boldly labelled the second-year club the team to beat in the upcoming Hyundai A-League season.

Star Gold Coast United midfielder Jason Culina has boldly labelled the second-year club the team to beat in the upcoming Hyundai A-League season.

Miron Bleiberg's men finished a credible third behind eventual grand finalists Sydney FC and Melbourne Victory in their inaugural campaign.

But a confident Culina insists his star studded line-up deserves to enter the 2010/11 season as favourites to claim both Premiership and Championship honours.

"I can't go past Gold Coast United," a confident Culina said when asked to identify the leading contenders for the title this season.

"I believe in my team, I think we'll do well and we'll improve on what we did last year."

"But look, at the end of the day you've still got Sydney and Melbourne (Victory) and these are the teams who have shown over the years just how good they are and they'll be two strong teams as well."

Meanwhile, Culina welcomed the addition of expansion club Melbourne Heart for Season 6 of the competition.

"Expansion is very important because firstly it creates more games, and that's what you want to be playing, more games," he explained.

"It draws the crowds, it improves the football, it's like anything the more you practice the better you get."

"I think when the A-League started we had 21 games and now we're up to 30, that's nine extra games per team per year."

"It's something that we all want, we don't like training we like playing games and with the inclusion of the new Sydney franchise next year it'll put the games up to 33, which is exactly what we need and that almost equivalent to a European season."

Asked to compare the A-League with the top leagues in Europe, the veteran of 10 seasons in Belgium and Holland replied: "I think we're still a way off European football in general but the A-League is always improving and getting better. And that (is reflected by the influx) of players coming from Europe, and that's what's been strengthening the league in the last couple of years."

"It just goes to show that someone like Robbie Fowler who yesterday in the newspapers said that our league is underestimated, and I think that's a valid point."

"It's a very physical league at the end of the day and it demands a lot out of the player. Technically we can still be improving but overall it's a tough league, we're gaining more respect from everybody and you can just see that everybody wants to be involved."

"I think the evolution of Australian football is getting better and we expect a lot more from ourselves and that's why it is getting better."

Gold Coast opens its campaign with a local derby against Brisbane Roar at Skilled Park on Sunday afternoon.