Preview: Sydney FC v Gold Coast
Sydney and Gold Coast face off in a top-of-the table classic at Sydney Football Stadium in a match which could go a long way to deciding the respective team's prospects of making the top two.
Date: Sunday January 17 Kick-off: 5:00pm AEDT, 4:00pm AEST Venue: Sydney Football Stadium, Sydney
Head-to-head Two Hyundai A-League meetings: Wins: Gold Coast 2, Sydney FC 0, Draws: 0
Previous Meeting Gold Coast United 1, Sydney FC 0, Skilled Park, November 2009
Past five matches: Sydney FC: Round 18: Wellington Phoenix 0, Sydney FC 1, FMG Stadium Round 20: Melbourne Victory 0, Sydney FC 0, Etihad Stadium Round 19: Central Coast 0, Sydney FC 1, Bluetongue Stadium Round 21: Sydney FC 1, Adelaide United 0, Sydney Football Stadium Round 22: Perth Glory 0, Sydney FC, ME Bank Stadium
Gold Coast: Round 18: Newcastle Jets 3, Gold Coast United 2, EnergyAustralia Stadium Round 20: Gold Coast United 2, Perth Glory 0, Skilled Park Round 21: Gold Coast United 5, Brisbane Roar 1, Skilled Park Round 22: Gold Coast United 1, Adelaide United, Skilled Park Round 19: Gold Coast United 2, Newcastle Jets 1, Skilled Park
Analysis: Sydney and Gold Coast face off in a top-of-the table classic at Sydney Football Stadium in a match which could go a long way to deciding the respective team's prospects of making the top two.
Sydney leads Gold Coast by two points on the table, but both times the team have met this year, Miron Bleiberg's team have come out on top. Shane Smeltz has been the Sky Blues' chief tormentor scoring all three goals in those matches.
The All White's 19 goals this season have been the major reason behind United's stunning debut season. While there have been some lulls, including away thrashings by Melbourne, Wellington and Central Coast, there have been far more highlights. In the past four weeks Gold Coast has been unbeaten, winning three and drawing one.
The major improvement has come in defence, conceding just two goals in 360 minutes while scoring 10 up the other end. But this match marks the first match Gold Coast has had on the road in over a month. While they may have made merry in the festive season, they face back-to-back away matches in the next fortnight.
Gold Coast has won just three of 10 away matches this year and has only prevailed in one of its past eight. Miron's men have simply failed to take their show on the road this year. Coupled with the fact that they have to back up just four days after defeating the Jets, and it looms as a big ask.
The coach has called three players into an extended squad for this match, with Steve Pantelidis, Andrew Barasic and Steve Fitzsimmons included. Bleiberg will no doubt be assessing his players' recovery ahead of this crucial match.
Sydney comes into this contest as the competition's form side after a run of six matches without defeat. The Sky Blues' defence has not been breached in 479 minutes and they have conceded just 18 goals this season.
Perhaps an even more frightening prospect for the Gold Coast attackers is that Simon Colosimo, Sydney's best defender this season, returns for this match from suspension, while Alex Brosque, arguably Vitezslav Lavicka's form attacker, is also back in after returning from national duty. Brendan Gan has also been included in an extended squad.
The key to Sydney's success this season is the proximity of their best and worst performances. Even when the Sky Blues are not on their game, such as last weekend's game against Perth and the recent trip to Melbourne, they have been able to eke out a point.
Sydney has also been superb at home, winning its past three and seven of its past eight at the SFS. Brosque and Steve Corica have both loved the home turf of recent times, scoring five goals between them in that three-game winning run.
It looks a very tough test for Gold Coast, but if the new boys are serious about challenging for the title, they must get a good result from matches such as this. Sydney's determination to stay on top of the table and win its first-ever premiership should make for a fantastic afternoon at the SFS.
Sydney FC squad: 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), 12.Shannon COLE, 13.Anthony GOLEC, 14.Alex BROSQUE, 15.Terry MCFLYNN, 16.Chris PAYNE, 18.Adam CASEY, 19.Mark BRIDGE, 20.Ivan NECEVSKI (gk), 22.Sung-Hwan BYUN, 26 Hayden FOXE *three to be omitted
In: Simon COLOSIMO (return from suspension), Brendan GAN (promoted), Alex Brosque (return from injury), (promoted)
Unavailable: Kofi DANNING (Knee - season), Matthew JURMAN (Foot - season), Sebastian RYALL (knee - 5 weeks), Rhyan Grant (Suspended - 1 week)
Gold Coast United Squad: 1.Jess VANSTRATTAN (gk), 2.Steve PANTELIDIS, 3.Michael THWAITE, 7.Zenon CARAVELLA, 9.Shane SMELTZ, 10.Jason CULINA (c), 13.Bas VAN DEN BRINK, 14.Joel PORTER, 15.Tahj MINNIECON, 16.Kristian REES, 17.Matt OSMAN, 18.James BROWN, 19.Andrew BARISIC, 20.Scott HIGGINS (gk), 23.Steve FITZSIMMONS, 24.ANDERSON, 34.Charlie MILLER, 36.Dino DJULBIC. *three to be omitted
In: Steve PANTELIDIS (return from suspension), Andrew BARISIC (return from thigh injury), Steve FITZSIMMONS (promoted).
Unavailable: Adama TRAORE (ankle injury - 2 weeks), Daniel PIORKOWSKI (ankle injury - indefinite), ROBSON (knee injury - 3 weeks), JEFFERSON (knee injury - indefinite).