Injuries mar United at home
SUNDAY’S bruising encounter with Melbourne Victory has left Gold Coast United head coach Miron Bleiberg with injury headaches ahead of tonight’s crucial home clash with Adelaide United at Skilled Park.
Currently sitting fourth following the 2-0 loss to Victory, Bleiberg’s men will need to claim a win over third-placed Adelaide to hold any realistic possibility of pushing Central Coast Mariners all the way for the coveted runners-up spot on the ladder.
The loss in Melbourne dented Gold Coast’s hopes of finishing second but a win tonight would close the gap and make next week’s clash against the Mariners a do-or-die match.
“We are fighting to finish as high as we possibly can so Wednesday night’s match against Adelaide is vital to our cause,” Bleiberg said.
“There isn’t a team in the competition that doesn’t have a ‘must win’ game every week now, and that is the case for both us and Adelaide.
“Both of us lost at the weekend – we were intimidated by Melbourne Victory and Adelaide were outplayed by the Mariners – so bouncing back with a win is important to both teams.
“In a fair game, if we win it I will be happy and if we lose it I will be happy to concede. It’s a big game, we want to play good football and may the best team win.
“For the supporters it should have everything that a finals match has.
“There is a lot at stake for both teams.”
However, Bleiberg must first figure out exactly what troops he has available tonight.
Dutchman Bas van den Brink will undergo precautionary scans on his ankle today after limping out of the contest with just five minutes gone.
But Bleiberg will not rule out the midfielder until the results of the scans are known.
Another under an injury cloud is marauding wing-back Adama Traore, who is suffering with a knee injury.
Like van den Brink, Traore too will be given until the 11th hour to prove his fitness for what is set to be a vital game for Gold Coast.
However, in a major boost to their striking stocks, United will welcome prolific goal scorer Shane Smeltz back to the fold after missing the Victory clash through illness.
Midfielder Zenon Caravella is another who is in line for a return to action, creating a potentially unusual situation in the middle of the park.
Caravella will join Adelaide next season having signed a two-year deal with the Reds, and if he plays he could come up against two players who Gold Coast are reported to be interested in signing – Adam Hughes and Paul Reid.
Former Dutch international Andwele Slory will make his A-League debut from the bench for Adelaide after overcoming a thigh injury since joining the club after Christmas.