GCU gun for pace

Gold Coast United are set to unleash their pace battery on Central Coast's veteran back four in a cracking New Years Eve contest.

Gold Coast United will aim to run the veteran Central Coast Mariners defence off their feet in their New Years' Eve clash at Bluetongue Stadium.

Forced into altering his side's attacking set-up due to an injury to focal point Dylan Macallister, coach Miron Bleiberg will rely on the blistering pace of his youngsters to do the business against the league leaders on Saturday.

On statistics the Mariners' rearguard is the stingiest in the Hyundai A-League, but speed might be a prudent strategy given the age of experienced centre-half and key man Patrick Zwaanswilk (36), and United's own weaponry.

The likes of youth team graduates Ben Halloran, James Brown and Chris Harold are all quick off the mark - and Bleiberg hopes they're too quick for a Central Coast back four that has conceded just 10 goals all season.

"The truth is if I had Dylan I would have started him and had the other option on the bench, but it happened to be maybe from upstairs that he's not available so we'll go with the pace from the beginning," said the United coach.

"We can (add) someone like Chris Harold or Golgol Mebrahtu (to the squad), and they're both very quick. If we had Dylan against the Mariners defence, to the bare eye it looks a perfect match."

"It's strength and strength, height for height, power for power. But if you're a bit more astute you say, 'why do we have to play their game in their own backyard? Why not go with pace?'"

"The fact that Dylan isn't playing forced me to play the other option, which I don't think is worse. If Zwaanswijlk and (Alex) Wilkinson want to chase these 19-year-old speedsters, maybe it's even better."

"They'll win all the aerial battles but they might not win every through ball."

If it sounds like Saturday night's encounter is set to be an intriguing tactical battle, don't count on it.

Bleiberg said Central Coast's system - a narrow 4-4-2 diamond with attacking fullbacks - was predictable, but in the best possible way.

It is Graham Arnold's preferred formation because it works for them, and that means the first move in the 'chess battle' between opposing coaches falls to Bleiberg.

"You know, I know and everybody knows how they're going to play," he said after their final training session on Friday morning at Broadbeach.

"It's not a tactical battle - they're well drilled and play well, and we will try to outsmart them. It's not vice versa. There's always a solution."

"With Graham Arnold, it's not much of a chess battle - and I'm not taking anything away from him."

"The Mariners are set in their own ways and they are successful. The last thing Graham will do is change his tactics because of us."

The Gosford club loom as a formidable opponent - on the back of a run of nine matches without defeat, their confidence is sky-high and all systems are go.

Particularly at their home ground, Gold Coast would do well to escape Bluetongue Stadium with a point, and Bleiberg conceded the Mariners have the 'upper hand'.

"They are the ones who have won six or seven games in a row, and we're only just starting the march towards our 37-game unbeaten run," he smiled.

"They are first for a reason. They're well drilled, we respect them and they deserve to be first, but whoever will be smarter on the day and play better will win it. On personnel, I don't think we are behind."