Perth will host cellar-dwelling Gold Coast United as they continue their surprising push for a top-two finish to the regular season.
Date: Monday, 7 February 2012 Kick-off: 7:00pm (AWST), 9:00pm (AEST), 10:00pm (AEDT) Venue: nib Stadium
Head-to-head Played 7: Wins: Perth Glory 1, Gold Coast United 4, Draws: 2
Previous encounter Perth Glory 2, Gold Coast United 0, nib Stadium, December 2011
History: Glory achieved their first Iron-Ore Cup win when these sides played in early December. In unusual circumstances, Gold Coast gifted a first goal to Glory when young defender Zach Anderson suffered a brain snap, holding his hands up to catch the ball from a Glory corner.
There was nothing the referee could do but award Perth a penalty, one that was gleefully tucked away by Mile Sterjovski as he dedicated his first goal of the season to his newborn daughter, who'd been born just the day before. Shane Smeltz scored the next penalty against his former side after Ben Halloran brought down Andrezinho, completing a rather miserable evening for the Gold Coast team.
However, with four wins over the Glory to their name over the first seven clashes, the ledger is still squarely in Gold Coast's favour, although most of those results were set up by Smeltz goals and he's in purple now.
Form: Past five matches: Perth Glory: WWDWW Gold Coast United: LDLLD
Perth are enjoying one of the greatest runs of form in their Hyundai A-League history. The club needs just one more draw or win to set a new record of eight matches unbeaten, edging out their previous mark, which was achieved at the end of the 2009-10 season and over the first five weeks of the following campaign before the 2010-11 year completely fell apart.
When these two sides last played, Perth were enduring a similarly tough period and their victory over Gold Coast actually represented the club's sole win in nine matches. But since being reduced to 10 men against Newcastle on New Year's Eve and still achieving a gritty 1-1 draw, the Glory have gone from strength to strength and have won four of their last five games.
Gold Coast, meanwhile, haven't won since defeating Brisbane Roar on Boxing Day, but their formline hasn't been quite as bad as this statement suggests.
As coach Miron Bleiberg has been keen to point out, his side hasn't been wiped out by any team and have instead made a habit of one-goal losses this term. Their most recent result was a brave 1-1 draw with Melbourne Victory in Launceston on Wednesday night, courtesy of Michael Thwaite's injury-time goal.
Match Committee: Glory's unbeaten run may be brought to an end through injury. Speedster Evan Berger has suffered another hamstring tear and is officially gone for the next six weeks although it could be somewhat longer.
Adding to Ian Ferguson's difficulties down the left, Todd Howarth has also tweaked his groin and may not be available for this encounter. This wouldn't be such an issue if Josh Mitchell was available to play centre back, as Steve Pantelidis could move to the left, but Mitchell will be touch and go coming back from a knee injury as well.
Young forward James Brown was forced to come off during the clash with Victory after clashing with Melbourne skipper Adrian Leijer, but it's uncertain whether he's sustained any damage that will keep him out of this encounter.
Paul Beekmans has also been released from his contract on compassionate grounds while Glen Moss (adductor), Joel Porter (calf), Tahj Minniecon (heel), Chris Broadfoot (ankle) and Dylan Macallister (hamstring) are all long-term absentees.
Danger men: Liam Miller - The classy midfield finally broke his scoring duck for Glory in last week's win over Adelaide. He'd gone perilously close to finding the back of the net against the Mariners just before Christmas and also against Victory the previous week, but in the 82nd minute against the Reds he made no mistake.
Michael Thwaite - The Gold Coast captain hasn't made a habit of scoring. In fact, up to Wednesday night, he'd gone through his entire professional career without scoring. But cometh the injury time cometh the man and Thwaite stepped up to nail a late equaliser against Melbourne, making it the second time in two weeks a former Victory player had scored a late leveller against that side after Sebastian Ryall's effort on Australia Day.
At the end of the day… In all fairness Glory are probably due a loss and they will be especially wary of a Gold Coast side that's proved a tricky opponent against most teams in this competition. Gold Coast still have dangerous young players in Halloran and Brown, even though their forward stocks at present are severely limited through McCallister and Minniecon's injuries.
Glory, though, will be keen to continue the promising form they've shown since New Years Eve. While the goalscoring has been impressive, their general play and the combinations between players has been the real highlight, especially as pacemen Berger and Sterjovski have been let off the leash in recent weeks. But without Berger in the side, more responsibility will fall on Andrezinho and the jury's still out on whether he can handle this when the game's really hot.
Perth will be disappointed that this game is being played on Monday night at nib Stadium. Fresh from getting over 12,000 to their demolition of Melbourne Victory, the club would have been keen to get most of these supporters back for a game against last-placed Gold Coast. But the Rod Stewart gig has put paid to that idea, meaning a lower crowd will be on hand for this encounter. But this should only make Glory more intent on giving them something to remember, especially as the side now boats three ex GCU players in Smeltz, van den Brink and the in-form Steve Pantelidis.