Victory easier without Muscat: Bleiberg
Gold Coast United coach Miron Bleiberg says taking on Melbourne Victory without the suspended Kevin Muscat will be an easier task, partly because of his powers of intimidation.
The fourth-placed United meet fifth-placed Victory at AAMI Park on Sunday, with the match Melbourne's first since they learnt their skipper would miss the rest of the A-League season.
"It makes your job easier," Bleiberg said.
"Obviously Muscat is a leader and they've played with him most of the games for the past six years, so if he's not playing it's like a group of people without a leader, I think it's to our benefit."
Bleiberg suggested, in addition to Muscat's leadership and football smarts, Victory might also miss his influence on referees.
"He's renowned for his intimidating of the referee, he's renowned for his quick free kicks, which have cost us in the past because we were not aware by the time he made the free kick and they scored a goal against us," he said.
While Victory want to solidify their top six berth, Gold Coast, coming off a 5-1 victory over Newcastle, are still hoping for second spot and a finals double chance.
Aiding that ambition, they have a game in hand over second-placed Central Coast and third-placed Adelaide and play both those teams in the run home.
"If we want to aim for the top two ... we have to win most of the games, almost all the games, so we go now with an attitude of win at all costs," Bleiberg said.
They take on a Victory outfit that, on top of dealing with Muscat's potentially career-ending suspension, are backing up from an away game against North Queensland on Wednesday night.
That cost them injuries to Billy Celeski and Evan Berger, who have been ruled out for Sunday.
Defender Adrian Leijer will take over the captaincy, while Mate Dugandzic will be rewarded with a start after scoring twice as a substitute in the 3-0 win in Townsville.
Veteran defender Matthew Kemp and teenager Petar Franjic were added to the squad, and coach Ernie Merrick said the 18-year-old might start, on a day the temperature is forecast to hit 40 degrees.
Merrick was hopeful the gruelling conditions would aid Melbourne.
"It makes for a really tough game and playing under fatigue, that suits us, especially in front of our home crowd at AAMI Park," he said.