IRN-BRU LEAGUE CUP FINAL: CLIFTONVILLE V CRUSADERS (KICK-OFF 5.35PM. LIVE ON BBC RADIO ULSTER)

Reds manager Tommy Breslin hopes for an IRN-BRU League Cup final win

Reds manager Tommy Breslin hopes for an IRN-BRU League Cup final win

ALL roads lead to Windsor Park on Saturday evening for the crunch encounter between the two best teams in the Danske Bank Irish Premier League.

Cliftonville sit proudly on top of the league looking down on Crusaders with a nine point lead.

But all that goes out the window on cup final day as the two north Belfast rivals do battle for the IRN-BRU League Cup.

Crusaders will be looking to retain the cup which they won in last year’s final after beating Coleraine.

And Cliftonville will be looking for their first piece of silverware of the 2012/2013 season.

It is an eagerly anticipated game between the clubs who have great frontmen who bagging goals for fun this season.

But come the final whistle it will be the team who takes it chances and can defend their penalty box that will run out winners.

“Both teams have exciting forwards so there should be goals in the game,” says Reds’ manager Tommy Breslin.

“Bragging rights are at stake for the fans,” said Crues’ boss Stephen Baxter.

“The clubs have mirrored each other in how they have developed and progressed on and off the park in recent years and it is really positive for north Belfast,” added Baxter.

“For both clubs, it has been a long process of getting better players in and holding onto those talented players – that is paying dividends now.

“Both teams have been competing in finals over the last four or five seasons, so it has not just happened overnight.

“There has been a lot of building and developing on and off the park and the competition is good for the league.

“Gary McCutcheon is missing with a hamstring injury and he is a big loss to us as he has a lot of quality and has been playing well recently.

“But we have other players with good pedigree who can take up the mantle.

Stephen Baxter looking to retain League Cup on Saturday

Stephen Baxter looking to retain League Cup on Saturday

“We will plan our shape, decide what tactics we are going to deploy, and see where it takes us.

“Cliftonville have been more consistent than any other team this season and can hurt teams with their passing so it will be a difficult game.”

Breslin says there is a “good buzz about the dressing room” at Solitude, and adds that his squad “just takes each game as it comes”.

“We know the quality we have in our dressing room and thankfully it has all gelled together this season.

“Some of our players have been at this club for many years and have won very little so occasions like this provide them with a great opportunity.”

The Crues are hoping to win the League Cup for the third time, while Cliftonville want to collect the silverware for the second time.

Baxter must plan without McCutcheon, Aidan Watson and Sean O’Neill, with former Shamrock Rovers and Longford Town stopper Craig Hyland and Frenchman Yohann Lacroix vying to replace O’Neill in goal.

 

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