The Reds meet the high-flying franchise at Hindmarsh Stadium on Friday night, and after a solid first-up win at home against a well-fancied Perth Glory outfit and an unlucky loss to Sydney FC away, Pantelis is confident the team has what it takes to overcome United.
tribalfootball.com caught up with the 27-year old winger to discuss the Gold Coast clash, along with the club’s early season form, Grand Final revenge, recent signings and the A-League improving overall.
How did it feel kicking off the season with a solid home win against a well-fancied Perth Glory side in front of a strong crowd in Round 1?
“It was important to get off to a good start after such a long pre-season of four months and to get the win in front of a healthy crowd was a great way to begin.
“Perth have added three Socceroos players – (Mile) Sterjovski, (Chris) Coyne and Jacob Burns – so it was great to record a win over such quality opposition.”
Over pre-season was there much emphasis on avenging last season’s unlucky Grand Final loss and if so, do you still bring it up as inspiration to succeed or is it well and truly behind you now?
“We will never forget it, nobody forgets something like that when you are such a big part of it.
“We had six weeks after the Grand Final where the players did not see each other to get away from it all but now we are focused purely on the season.
“We sometimes still joke about it to see the lighter side but we are just looking forward to this season and then there is the focus on Asia (Champions League).
“We are back in Asia this season and that will be good for us as well.”
Despite the 1-0 loss to Sydney FC on Sunday, do you feel the team has improved from last season?
“It was really an unlucky game for us. We were good in the first half and we pushed the opposition.
“There was a section there where we had six corners in a row and had them under the pump for about fifteen minutes but in the second half a few things went wrong.
“We just have to focus on ironing out those things on the training track.
“It was a ‘good’ loss if you could call it that, but despite it being a loss, we got a lot of positives out of it that will improve us going forward.”
Do you plan to play an attacking style against Gold Coast United on Friday or are you cautious of their goal scoring ability?
“We will just play our normal game I’d say. We set up differently depending on the team but I think the mentality will be the same as normal.
“We only got back from Sydney yesterday (Monday) so we just had a rehab session and are worrying about us at the moment.
“By Thursday we will start to think about them. But we are definitely scared and we believe we can get a good result.”
After the opening rounds of the A-League season, which have included some brilliant goals and great games, do you feel the competition is always improving?
“The difference this season is the number of high-profile players coming to the league.
“Last year there wasn’t that much of an injection but this year we have four or five Socceroos players as well as players like God – Robbie Fowler – who is an absolute legend of the game.
“This has enabled there to be more quality – quality games, quality goals – and the league is really heading in the right direction.”
As vice-captain, do you have much input towards setting club goals and targets for the season?
“We sat down as a group – myself, Travis (Dodd, captain) and the coaching staff. We wrote down what we wanted to achieve and how to go about achieving it.
“Then we sat down with the team, the playing group. There we wrote down what we expect and that comes from the whole team, all 21 players striving for the same thing.”
The addition of Mark Rudan will certainly shore up the club’s defence. Has he already made an impact at the club?
“We lost a lot of defenders at the end of last season so we were a bit short of stock in that regard.
“We lost (Michael) Valkanis, (Angelo) Costanzo to Newcastle and Sash (Sasa Ognenovski) to Korea who were three very influential players, not only on the park but within the team (off-field).
“But we managed to bring in Iain Fyfe (from Sydney FC) and with Rudan, he is very passionate and has that winning mentality that the club needed more of.”
Kick-off is at 7:30pm local time (8:00 AEST).