Gold Coast: We can cover Culina

Smarting after its first loss of the season, Gold Coast United faces the chore of taking down league leader Sydney FC without its inspirational skipper Jason Culina.

Smarting after its first loss of the season, Gold Coast United faces the chore of taking down league leader Sydney FC without its inspirational skipper Jason Culina.

United's link man will be on national duty with the Qantas Socceroos, leaving a chasm in the midfield, but the Hyundai A-League newcomers insist that they have the depth in their squad to cover for him.

Young Qantas Socceroo Tahj Minniecon and crafty Brazilian playmaker Robson will return from injury for the clash which will decide who leads the competition after five rounds.

Minniecon - who has mostly been used late in games when his pace is most devastating - said that Culina's absence would provide him with the chance to play a more prominent role and give United the opportunity to prove it is more than just a one-man show.

"A lot of the boys have something to prove and if they can get into the team and do well then I think it will help team morale," Minniecon said.

"People might think that we can't do well without Jason, but we might be able to prove that we can this week."

Gold Coast assistant coach Paul Okon, who played for the Qantas Socceroos 29 times, said that while United would obviously miss Culina, it was well prepared for his omission.

"We knew during the season that due to Jason's Qantas Socceroo commitments something like this would happen," Okon said.

"That's one of the reasons (Gold Coast coach) Miron (Bleiberg) didn't risk Robson last week, we wanted to have him fully fit and ready for the Sydney game knowing that Jason wouldn't be around."

United owner Clive Palmer put his team under pressure before a ball had been kicked with claims that his side would sweep through the competition undefeated and Okon thinks that last week's loss would allow the new side to reassess how it is travelling and concentrate on playing football.

"It's the monkey off our back, we no longer have to field questions or defend ourselves if (Clive) was right or wrong, or if we are going to keep up the streak."

"The loss will make us hungrier. We are no longer in first place and there was a lot of disappointment in the dressing rooms on Sunday, we wanted to be on 12 points but that didn't happen."

"Good teams do lose, but also good teams bounce back and that is what we need to do this Saturday against Sydney."