Victory just got harder for Coast
GOLD Coast United will face its toughest test of the season when the squad meets A-league leader Melbourne Victory tonight at Ethihad Stadium.
United’s defence has been left hanging by a thread with central defensive pair Kristian Rees and Bas Van den Brink both suspended for the clash.
Rees was cruelly sent off in last week’s 1-1 draw against Adelaide, while Van den Brink has been given a reduced two-week ban by the A-league match committee for allegedly man-handling referee Chris Beath during the same match.
After being defeated 3-2 the last time the two sides met, Gold Coast coach Miron Bleiberg would have liked to repay the favour, but with just 13 first-team squad members available for selection due to suspension and injury, the outspoken manager has been forced to take five unproven youngsters along for the trip south.
“We’re not going to play against Melbourne with the team I wish I had; when you travel to Ethihad (Stadium) with five rookies I think it is the biggest test you can have as a team,” Bleiberg said.
“We didn’t have an opportunity to play them on even par the first time, and this time I wanted to play them with a full-strength side, but again, the centre of the team is ripped apart.
“When you go to Melbourne you have two options, to play defensive or attacking. I don’t have a defence so I have to play attacking football.”
Former Victory man Michael Thwaite is expected to drop back into the heart of defence alongside 18-year-old Zac Anderson, who finds him-self in the starting line- up for the second week running.
While United attempts to plug the gaps at the back, up front things look better for the men in yellow, with A-League top-scorer Shane Smeltz, captain Jason Culina and midfield maestro Zenon Caravella all expected to line up.
Caravella has been instrumental in providing creative support to Culina and Smetlz, and he believes that United can grab the points if they play to their strengths.
“We know our strengths and if we dominate from the start and find a rhythm and dictate the game, we’ll be very difficult to beat,” he said.
“We have to try and utilise our advantages and we have a few quick guys that can cause teams trouble.”
As to the round-eight defeat, Caravella says it is in the past and won’t affect the mentality of the team.
“That’s long gone, it’s done and dusted, we’ve had a few good wins and a few tough games so that’s old news,” he said.
“If we have a win this week it will put us in good running for the end of the season.”