DERBY DAY IN DANSKE BANK IRISH PREMIER LEAGUE

Stephen Baxter relishing clash on Saturday with Cliftonville

Stephen Baxter relishing clash on Saturday with Cliftonville

IT’S derby day in the Danske Bank Irish Premier League as Belfast’s ‘Big Four’ clash.

Crusaders host table toppers Cliftonville in the eagerly awaited battle after the Reds thumped their north Belfast rivals 4-0 in the recent IRN-BRU League Cup final at a rain-soaked Windsor Park.

Across town in east Belfast, cash-strapped Glentoran play host to Linfield who have failed to win any silverware this season.

And up the M2, Ballymena Utd, winners of the Co Antrim Shield, entertain Coleraine at the Showgrounds.

But all eyes will be on the clash at Seaview between second versus first.

Earlier this week, Crues boss Stephen Baxter signed a new contract which will keep him at the Shore Road ground untill 2016.

Crusaders go into the match without suspended trio Gareth McKeown, Paul Heatley and Declan Caddell as they attempt to close the 12-point gap on Cliftonville.

Baxter’s side will again be without Gary McCutcheon, who remains out with a hamstring injury, but Reds boss Tommy Breslin reports no fresh injury worries.

His on fire strikers of Joe Gormley and Liam Boyce – with 26 goals each this season – will be looking to extend Cliftonville’s lead at the top by getting on the score sheet again.

“This is probably the biggest game of the season for both clubs,” said Baxter.

“If we win we can hold onto their coat-tails while a victory for them would put them in a fairly unassailable position,” he added.

Ballymena will still be without banned winger David Cushley as they aim to exact revenge for last week’s Irish Cup defeat at the hands of the Bannsiders.

The Sky Blues are now without a win in their last 12 meetings with Coleraine, a run stretching back to October 2009.

Glentoran manager Eddie Patterson awaits news on the fitness of David Howland and Stephen Carson.

“We are starting to get players fit again and we have had a couple of good results but we have a lot of young players in our ranks and their aim must be to be consistent,” said Patterson.

DANSKE BANK IRISH PREMIER LEAGUE, SATURDAY, FEBRUARY 16. All 3pm kick offs:

• Ballymena v Coleraine;

• Crusaders v Cliftonville;

• Donegal Celtic v Ballinamallard Utd;

• Dungannon S v Portadown;

• Glentoran v Linfield;

• Lisburn Distillery v Glenavon;

 

 

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