Roar ready for United A-League challenge

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    Nothing Gold Coast United coach Miron Bleiberg says surprises Brisbane Roar defender Shane Stefanutto – which is no mean feat.

    Bleiberg has done his best to ruffle feathers at the Roar with some bold claims this week and again didn’t hold back when asked how big the target was on A-League champions Brisbane’s head ahead of Friday night’s derby at Suncorp Stadium.

    “In the A-League, everyone wants to beat the Roar – there’s no other thing that anyone wants to achieve in this game,” Bleiberg said of Brisbane, who are on a record 30-game unbeaten run.

    “The only way to motivate us is to break the record and win the derby.”

    But ex-Socceroo Stefanutto laughed off Bleiberg’s comments on Thursday.

    “I don’t read into what Miron says, I am sorry,” he said.

    “Miron is great for the game because he gives you an honest assessment and doesn’t hold back.

    “I know Miron wants to be successful and beating us at home would be a big scalp.

    “But every team is hungry to beat us – that comes with being the champions.”

    But Bleiberg has stats to back up his trademark confidence.

    In their six derby encounters, United have the wood on the Roar – winning three and drawing two.

    Mind you, Brisbane won their last clash 4-0 before receiving the 2010-11 Premier’s Plate – then marched unbeaten toward championship glory.

    Surprisingly still wooden-spoon favourites with some bookies, United will go into the derby undefeated after opening the season with two draws.

    “I think they have gone a little under the radar – they have two draws but I think they have been a bit unlucky,” Stefanutto said.

    “They are a little bit similar to us last year – everyone wasn’t sure just how good they could be.

    “So we aren’t underestimating them.”

    The new-look United can finally add Dutch import Maceo Rigters to their side after a belated visa clearance.

    And the striker has taken up where Bleiberg left off by having a subtle dig at his rivals.
    FFA Technical Director Han Berger last week claimed an in-form Roar would hold their own in the Dutch first division – but Rigters wasn’t so sure.

    “I heard about that but I don’t know. If I played good against a small team, you might be able to say that I’m Lionel Messi,” he told Fox Sports.

    But he added: “They do play the Dutch way, though.

    “I’ve seen them play and they play very good football.”

    Brisbane had a heads-up on Rigters when the Dutchman trialled with Wellington in the pre-season – he scored against the Roar, but the Phoenix lost 5-1.

    However, the Roar are expected to welcome back Brazilian livewire Henrique from an ankle injury.

    “I wouldn’t want to be an opposition fullback, I must admit,” Stefanutto said.

    “You’ve got Ricky (Henrique) for 60 to 70 minutes then Kofi Danning coming off the bench who is just as quick and fresh – it’s nice they are in our side.”

    © AAP 2017