For a shot at glory – A-League Preliminary Final preview
It’s preliminary final weekend in the A-League and excitement is building north of the border as Queensland plays NSW in a battle of the ‘Coasts’. The Rub-Down breaks down the matchup to see who will win bragging rights on the beach.
Central Coast vs Gold Coast United (Bluetongue Stadium, Saturday 8:00pm AEDT)
Defence: Dino Djulbic has been the player of the finals for me. Unflappable at the back and a menace at set-pieces going forward he has been the driver for Gold Coast at both ends of the field. With his regular partner in crime Bas Van den Brink all the better for another game back from injury they will be hard to unsettle.
Alex Wilkinson anchors a defensive unit that leaked 4 goals in 2 games but still managed to hold their own against a relentless Roar attack. Gold Coast’s attack presents a different and probably more familiar look to that of the Roar but an equally dangerous one. If the Mariners are to win they cannot afford to leak another 2 goals.
Midfield: While Perez, McGlinchey and Bozanic had plenty of space to operate against the attack-minded Roar midfield that will change dramatically against the likes of Thwaite, Caravella and Perchtold who have been immense in their pressure in the past few weeks. Both teams play exceptionally well on the counter attack but the Central Coast midfield certainly have more of a ‘go forward’ mentality which could be dangerous against this Gold Coast outfit.
Where the Mariners may have the edge is out wide where wing-backs Josh Rose and Pedj Bojic create extra men in attack and are often the catalyst’s for the Mariners’ goals. If they can dominate their counterparts Minnecon and Traore then the Mariners will create plenty of chances.
Attack: While I have been praising the Gold Coast defence over the past few weeks, it was the strikers last week who hustled and bustled their way to 3 goals against a stingy Adelaide defence and it will only take another moment of brilliance from Smeltz, Djite or Porter to see them score. Having said that, Gold Coast rely heavily on their strikers to score so shut them down and you are in with a good chance.
The pairing of McBreen and Kwasnik at the other end doesn’t carry the same X-factor as Gold Coast’s front two but they are both honest toilers who will make a nuisance of themselves, especially McBreen in the air. The key to their success will again be Patricio Perez who has lit up the final series so far and I would look to Gold Coast captain Michael Thwaite to be given the job of slowing Perez down.
Key changes: Matt Simon is desperately trying to prove his fitness but you would think he would be a starter on the bench at best. Gold Coast are unchanged.
Rub-Down predicts: Gold Coast 2-0. The Rub-Down made some horror predictions last week with Gold Coast and Adelaide putting on a 5 goal thriller and Central Coast coming within a whisker of knocking Brisbane off. Hopefully the form guide will hold up this week although nothing is ever certain in the A-League!
It seems difficult to back against the Gold Coast at the moment as they seem to be riding a punter’s roll of good luck and opportunism. Central Coast may well be the heartbreak story of this year’s finals as they have turned in 2 fine performances against Brisbane but the fact they could not get past Brisbane in either match may have sapped their confidence in winning crunch games. I would like to see them take on Brisbane once again but you just get that feeling Clive Palmer is on to a good thing here.
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