Preview: Gold Coast United v Sydney FC
This is a fascinating clash of styles where both sides will be desperate to win. Not just for bragging rights, but for top spot on the table.
Date: Saturday September 5 Kick-off: 5:00pm AEST Venue: Skilled Park, Gold Coast TV and Radio: Live & exclusive broadcast on Fox Sports 3. To purchase tickets visit www.ticktek.com.au
Head-to-head Never played
Season so far: Gold Coast United: Round 1: Brisbane Roar 1, Gold Coast United 3, Suncorp Stadium Round 2: Gold Coast United 5, North Queensland 0, Skilled Park Round 3: Adelaide United 0, Gold Coast United 2, Hindmarsh Stadium Round 4: Newcastle Jets 1, Gold Coast United 0, EnergyAustralia Stadium
Sydney FC: Round 1: North Queensland 2, Sydney FC 3, Dairy Farmers Stadium Round 2: Sydney FC 1, Adelaide United 0, SFS Round 3: Central Coast 0, Sydney FC 0, Bluetongue Stadium Round 4: Sydney FC 2, Wellington Phoenix 0, SFS
Analysis: For four years, Sydney FC was anointed the glamour side of the Hyundai A-League. While it was initially self-anointed, there is no doubt that label made it hard for Sydney to live up to the expectation the image created, especially after the Sky Blues won the inaugural Hyundai A-League title.
But in four short weeks Gold Coast has stepped forward as the razzle-dazzle team of the competition, allowing Sydney to take a step out of the spotlight. It has suited Vitezslav Lavicka's side perfectly and they are unbeaten after four rounds and currently lead the table.
The 'blue-collar' Sky Blues may not be playing spectacular football but the results have been flowing with wins over North Queensland, Adelaide and Wellington and a draw against the Mariners. The most recent victory over the Phoenix was achieved thanks to some good late work from Brendan Gan and John Aloisi, who both scored goals with their heads. While the previous incarnations of this team have been accused of trying to walk the ball into the goal, this year, Lavicka has his men very sharp on long crosses into the area and it's reaping dividends.
However, Sydney has lost Terry McFlynn for four weeks through injury, while Aloisi is in considerable doubt with a knee injury. Aloisi has scored more goals already this season than he did last time round, and his absence would be a big loss to the visitors.
Stuart Musialik comes in after suffering a stomach bug and could make his first appearance for the year, while Adam Casey and Rhyan Grant have also been included in an extended squad.
Gold Coast suffered its first hiccup of its inaugural campaign when Newcastle managed to secure a shock 1-0 home win last week. The Jets exploited United's wide defensive players, who tend to get forward a lot, and in the end the winning goal came down the side of the park with a great finish from Sean Rooney.
Miron Bleiberg's 2-4-2-2 formation could also favour Sydney, which uses the speed and athleticism of Kofi Danning and Alex Brosque to attack on the flanks. The Gold Coast wing backs will need to be mindful of this and ensure that the defence is solid.
But the issue for Gold Coast could be trying to score goals, not stop them. Midfield general Jason Culina is on Qantas Socceroos duties, meaning United will need someone to step up and fill his shoes. Culina's quick feet and precise passing were crucial to United's first three wins of the season.
Shane Smeltz had his worst game in a Gold Coast shirt last week, but that may have just been an off-day for the previously in-form striker. Joel Porter has been busy as a supplier, but may have to start pulling the trigger himself soon, while the return of Tahj Minniecon to the squad adds some pace to the attack. Robson returns from a groin injury, while Matt Osman is also back in an extended squad ahead of what may be the most-anticipated match of the season to date.
The one major positive for Gold Coast is getting back on home turf after two weeks on the road and just one home fixture in the first month of the season. If the way United took apart North Queensland when they last played at Skilled Park is any guide, then Sydney is in for a tough night. This is a fascinating clash of styles where both sides will be desperate to win. Not just for bragging rights, but for top spot on the table.
Gold Coast United Squad: 20.Scott HIGGINS (gk), 2.Steve PANTELIDIS, 3.Michael THWAITE (c), 4.Daniel PIORKOWSKI, 5.ROBSON, 7.Zenon CARAVELLA, 9.Shane SMELTZ, 11.MILSON, 13.Bas VAN DEN BRINK, 14.Joel PORTER, 15.Tahj MINNIECON, 16.Kristian REES, 17.Matt OSMAN, 22.Adama TRAORE, 23.Steve FITZSIMMONS, 24.ANDERSON, 40.Robbie BAJIC. *two to be omitted*
In: ROBSON (return from groin injury), Tahj MINNIECON (promoted), Matt OSMAN (promoted)
Out: Jason CULINA (international duty).
Unavailable: JEFFERSON (knee injury - 6 weeks), Jess VANSTRATTAN (ankle injury - 3 weeks)
Sydney FC: 1. Clint BOLTON (gk), 3. Stephan KELLER, 4. Simon COLOSIMO, 6. Karol KISEL, 7. Brendan GAN, 8. Stuart MUSIALIK, 9. John ALOISI, 10. Steve CORICA (c), 11. Kofi DANNING, 12. Shannon COLE, 14. Alex BROSQUE, 17. Matthew JURMAN, 18. Adam CASEY, 19. Mark BRIDGE, 20. Ivan NECEVSKI (gk), 22. Sung Hwan BYUN, 23. Rhyan GRANT. *two to be omitted*
In: Stuart MUSIALIK (promoted), Adam CASEY (promoted), Rhyan GRANT (promoted),
Out: Terry MCFLYNN (thigh - 4 weeks)
Unavailable: Mitchell PRENTICE (back - 1 week)