Preview: Gold Coast United v Melbourne Victory

Gold Coast may have had only two years in the competition but that hasn’t prevented a strong rivalry developing between the two teams.

Date: Sunday February 20
Kick-off: 4:30pm local, (5:30pm AEDT)
Venue: Skilled Park
Television: Live and exclusive on Fox Sports 3
Live Match Centre:

Played 6: Wins: Melbourne Victory 4. Gold Coast 2

Previous Meeting
Melbourne Victory 2, Gold Coast United 0, AAMI Park, January 2011

Why we don’t like ’em
Gold Coast may have had only two years in the competition but that hasn’t prevented a strong rivalry developing between the two teams. Their first two encounters last season produced nine goals, with Melbourne winning both, but the next three encounters have been much more defensive, with only one goal scored on each occasion.

The most recent encounter provided the most controversy of the lot. Victory won the match 2-0, but post-match Miron Bleiberg accused Melbourne of dirty tactics, a claim the club flatly rejected and dismissed as gamesmanship.

It has certainly added some spice going into this cut-throat final

Past five matches:
Gold Coast United:
Brisbane Roar 4, Gold Coast United 0. Suncorp Stadium
Gold Coast United 1, Central Coast Mariners 3, Skilled Park
Perth Glory 1, Gold Coast United 2, nib Stadium
Gold Coast United 0, Adelaide United 0, Skilled Park
Melbourne Victory 2, Gold Coast United 0, AAMI Park

Melbourne Victory:
Adelaide United 2, Melbourne Victory 1, Hindmarsh Stadium
Melbourne Victory 2, Newcastle Jets 0, Etihad Stadium
Melbourne Victory 2, Gold Coast United 0, AAMI Park
North Queensland Fury 0, Melbourne Victory 3, Dairy Farmers Stadium
Melbourne Victory 2, Melbourne Heart 2, Etihad Stadium

Decisions for Ernie
With close to a full list available, the Melbourne coach has some tough calls to make, especially in terms of the players he uses up front. In an ideal world you could fit Allsopp, Thompson, Kruse, Dugandzic, Hernandez and Angulo all in the same side, but that would seem over the top even for an attacking coach like Merrick. The other concern is whether midfield pair Billy Celeski and Grant Brebner fit back into the starting line-up.

Behind Enemy Lines
Gold Coast get back several key players for this match, including striker Brice Djite, who has had a hamstring injury and midfielder/defender Bas van den Brink, who hasn’t played since injuring his ankle against Melbourne a few weeks back. Striker Joel Porter is also available, while Ben Halloran has been included in an extended squad.

Our hero
Archie Thompson – Having scored on his return from injury last week, Thompson will be ready to have a major impact in this match. It’s been a frustrating season, but he will relish the chance to play alongside Kruse and Allsopp.

Danger Man
Shane Smeltz – Between them, Smeltz and Archie Thompson have scored 100 A-League goals. They are the two dominant marksmen in the history of the competition, so it makes sense that they should be the two men to watch in this one.

Why we’ll win
With the exception of last week’s loss to Adelaide, which had no impact on the ladder position anyway, Victory have had a strong finish to the season. In contrast, Gold Coast have limped to the wire, winning just one out of their final five matches.

The last time Gold Coast played one of the other finals team and won was on December 11 and it is clear they are missing their playmaker in Jason Culina.

Head-to-head this season, a Gold Coast player has not scored against Melbourne, with Rody Vargas’ own goal at Etihad Stadium the only score for GCU. They were lucky in that match and were comprehensively outplayed in their next trip south, only a few weeks ago.

They complained of rough treatment, but the reality was they failed to compete at Victory’s level in that match. With Victory now having Thompson and Kruse available, it is hard to see them turning it around, even on home soil.

Finals football can produce some funny results, and given the concerns over the state of the Skilled Park turf, a bobble of the ball either way could turn the whole match on its head. But Melbourne’s experience is key here and you’d think when it comes down to those pressure moments, they will get the job done and advance to the next match.

Gold Coast United: 1.Glen MOSS [gk], 2.Steve PANTELIDIS, 3.Michael THWAITE (c), 6.Dino DJULBIC, 7.Zenon CARAVELLA, 8.ANDERSON, 9.Shane SMELTZ, 11.Bruce DJITE, 13.Bas VAN DEN BRINK, 14.Joel PORTER, 15.Tahj MINNIECON, 16.Kristian REES, 20.Scott HIGGINS [gk], 22.Adama TRAORE, 23.Steve FITZSIMMONS, 26.Ben HALLORAN, 27.Chris HAROLD, 32.Steven LUSTICA, 33.Peter PERCHTOLD.
*Three to be omitted*

In: 11.Bruce DJITE (return from hamstring injury), 13.Bas VAN DEN BRINK (return from ankle injury), 14.Joel PORTER (return from calf injury), 26.Ben HALLORAN (promoted).
Out: Nil.
Unavailable: John CURTIS (shoulder injury – unknown), 10.Jason CULINA (knee injury – season), ROBSON (hamstring injury – 2 weeks), Daniel PIORKOWSKI (ankle injury – indefinite).

Melbourne Victory: 1.Michael PETKOVIC (gk), 3. Mate DUGANDZIC, 4. Petar FRANJIC, 5. Surat SUKHA, 6. Leigh BROXHAM, 7. Matthew KEMP, 8. Grant BREBNER, 9. RICARDINHO, 10. Archie THOMPSON, 11. Marvin ANGULO, 12. Rodrigo VARGAS, 13. Diogo FERREIRA, 14. Billy CELESKI, 15. Tom PONDELJAK, 16. Carlos HERNANDEZ, 17. Matthew FOSCHINI, 18. Danny ALLSOPP, 20. Sebastian MATTEI (gk), 21. Robbie KRUSE, 23. Adrian LEIJER (c)
*Four to be omitted*

In: Leigh BROXHAM (returns from injury), Billy CELESKI (returns from injury), Grant BREBNER (returns from injury), RICARDINHO (promoted)
Unavailable: Kevin MUSCAT (suspension).