Preview: Gold Coast United v Brisbane Roar

If the title is out of the picture for Brisbane come kick-off time, Ange Postecoglou has already admitted he may rest some players.

Date: Sunday 25 March, 2012 Kick-off: 6.30pm AEDT, 5.30pm AEST Venue: Skilled Park

Head-to-head Played: 8 Wins: Gold Coast 4, Brisbane 2, Draws: 2

Previous encounter Gold Coast 1, Brisbane Roar 0, 26 December 2011

History: The M1 Derby might not quite be at the level of Victory v Heart or even Central Coast v the Roar, but both these teams probably have matches against their local rivals circled in red ink on their calendars.

Earlier this season, Brisbane stamped their dominance in the fixture with a 3-0 triumph at Suncorp Stadium. But on Boxing Day, Gold Coast fired back - a last-gasp penalty to super-sub Daniel Severino gave the Glitter Strip club a memorable victory.

Just when the M1 Derby is starting to gather a little momentum, though, United's uncertain future raises the very real possibility that Sunday could be the curtain call for this rivalry. Both sets of fans - and all the players lucky enough to be involved - should be heavily invested in this match.

Form: Past five matches: Gold Coast: DDLDW Brisbane: DLDWD

Summary of form: If you count AFC Champions League matches, Brisbane have the exact same record as Gold Coast in their past five matches.

We'll start with the cellar dwellers first, though - even if the form book suggests they should be a little higher up the table. Their 3-0 demolition of Perth was a long time coming.

The boys from the tourist strip could only manage draws against Central Coast, Melbourne Victory and Newcastle despite putting in some pretty exciting shifts. In between was a 2-0 loss to Wellington that, all things considered, probably couldn't have been avoided.

But at least for the past couple of months, following the injection of talented youth players like Jake Barker-Daish, Daniel Bowles and Mitch Cooper, United have looked a more formidable beast.

Brisbane were on a roll prior to kicking off their continental campaign - before facing FC Toyko, they'd won four on the bounce in the A-League, with clean sheets in three of those games.

But after falling 2-0 at home on matchday one of the ACL, things have been a little tricky - two consecutive 1-1 draws, first against the Heart and then Adelaide, followed by last weekend's 2-1 win in Newcastle.

There's a clear drop-off when you compare the Roar's pre-Champions League form to what their most recent records show, and that might be the best indicator we have to go by in terms of how well the club will juggle the dual demands of their finals campaign and their first foray in Asia.

Match Committee: As the comebacks of James Brown and Dylan Macallister showed last weekend, the treatment room at United was getting lighter - until Steve Pantelidis wrapped his studs around the leg of young striker Chris Harold.

The pacy forward is likely to miss Sunday's match, while Ben Halloran is already ruled out and Golgol Mebrahtu is again under a fitness cloud. Ante Rozic remains hampered by a hamstring problem, Glen Moss is slowly getting over his adductor tear, and of course Joel Porter (calf) has barely seen playing time this season.

For Brisbane, only Luke Brattan and Rock Visconte are unfit - and they'll be cleared to join their team-mates in only a week or two.

Danger men: James Brown - He's off to the Jets next year but against Perth, brace hero Brown reminded everyone why he was one of the most hyped-up players in the A-League earlier in the season.

Running on to score two great goals, the 22-year-old's return from an ankle injury was bittersweet for Gold Coast, and he'll be keen to leave his hometown club a winner in his last match in royal blue and yellow.

Mitch Nichols - A Palm Beach boy who plays an hour up the road, Nichols was a target of former United coach Miron Bleiberg late last season.

But if his form with Brisbane - including his duck-to-water transition into Asian football - is any indication, he made the right choice. The attacking utility is in good form and will no doubt be looking to continue that on Sunday.

At the end of the day… Exactly what will be on the line in this match will be determined by results on Friday and earlier on Sunday. If Adelaide beat the Heart, then there's no chance Gold Coast can offload the wooden spoon.

By the same token, if Central Coast are victorious in Wellington then this one effectively becomes a dead rubber for title-hunting Brisbane. But no matter what fateful hand is dealt, there's no escaping the fact that this very well could be it for United.

A hastily-assembled cartel of businessmen are looking to take over their A-League licence, and that news can only mean good things for Gold Coast.

As if they didn't already have enough motivation, there is now another added incentive for them to put in another good performance in front of a crowd that should be in the 10-15,000 range.

If this is going to be United's last hurrah, then you can bet your bottom dollar they'll be wanting to go out with a bang. Meanwhile their opponents, the second-placed Roar, have looked iffy since starting their AFC Champions League commitments - and they might be a bit tired after only landing back in Australia on Thursday following a marathon flight from Beijing. So how is it fair to write off Gold Coast United?

Short answer - it isn't. If the title is out of the picture for Brisbane come kick-off time, Ange Postecoglou has already admitted he may rest some players. That would make things a little easier for Gold Coast.

However, one must not forget - the Roar are where they are for a reason. They're a good team, and in normal circumstances, this match would be a foregone conclusion. But this certainly isn't normal - so don't be surprised if United pinch the three points.