LINFIELD will be looking to cement their position at the top of the league with a top class performance at home on Saturday against Crusaders.
But matters off the pitch have soured relations between the two clubs with insiders saying the game has now become a “needle match”.
At the start of this season, Linfield supporters en bloc refused to travel to Seaview to watch their team play Crusaders.
The snub resolved around Crusaders FC going to the High Court to challenge a decision by Sports Minister Caral Ni Chuilin to give £24 million to renovate Linfield’s Windsor Park ground.
Said an insider: “There is still a lot of ill feeling from last season.
“This is a massive game for the too clubs but it has also now become a needle match, so expect a crunching game.
“Last season, the board of directors at Crusaders were not invited to the director’s box at Linfield.
“There is a fear with the Crusaders camp that this will happen again. Things are fraught but really grown men should be able to sort these things out.
“If it doesn’t, it can only poison the atmosphere on and off the pitch.”
Whatever happens off the pitch, David Jeffrey and Stephen Baxter both know it is a must win game for their respective clubs.
Said Jeffrey: “This is a big game and we are under no illusion about the challenge we are up against.
“Crusaders are playing good football at the momen.”
But then again, so are Linfield who have got a real asset up in front in Andy Waterworth as he partners ‘Pistol’ Pete Thompson.
Glenavon remain in second following their 3-2 home defeat at the hands of Ballinmallard.
Cliftonville play host to Warrenpoint with the Reds’ keeper Conor Devlin making a return following a one-match ban.
Glentoran head up the M2 to play Coleraine at the Showground
Things have not been going so well this season for the Glens.
The board of directors took the unprecedented move this week of issuing a statement its expectation following criticism in the press.
Ballymena Utd are also on their travels today as they head up to Dungannon.
DANSKE BANK IRISH PREMIER LEAGUE, SATURDAY, OCTOBER 19, 2013 (KICK OFFS 3 PM)
Ards v Portadown
Cliftonville v Warrenpoint Town
Coleraine v Glentoran
Dungannon Swifts v Ballymena United
Linfield v Crusaders FC