Irish Premiership: Linfield host Crusaders in top-of-the-table clash

Mark Haughey and David Cushley in action during Crusaders' 0-0 draw with Linfield in August
Mark Haughey and David Cushley in action during Crusaders' 0-0 draw with Linfield in August

Crusaders go to Linfield on Saturday knowing victory will take them seven points clear of their nearest rivals for the Irish Premiership title.

Both sides recently surrendered their unbeaten records but the Crues bounced back by beating Carrick while Linfield drew at Coleraine last Saturday.

Crusaders boss Stephen Baxter will make changes to his team, having rested some players in a midweek Shield game.

"We have to rotate the squad because of the number of games," he said.

"We have had a dozen league games and matches in the League Cup, County Antrim Shield and Scottish Challenge Cup,

"Going to Windsor Park is a big game, two teams at the top, but nothing is going to be settled on Saturday.

"Linfield have been excellent this season, they have signed well with an experienced goalkeeper in Roy Carroll and an outstanding international midfielder in Sammy Clingan.

"But we have been working hard at our game and are more than a match. We will go there and give it our best shot."

Guy Bates congratulates goal-scorer Joel Cooper during Glenavon's 3-2 win over Cliftonville at Mourneview Park on 13 August
Guy Bates congratulates goal-scorer Joel Cooper during Glenavon's 3-2 win over Cliftonville at Mourneview Park on 13 August

Last season Linfield lost three of the four league matches between the sides, and ended up eight points behind Crusaders in the title race.

"They are the champions and have good players. We have good players too, but we need to turn up," said Linfield manager David Healy.

"There is a buzz around the match - it means a lot to both teams."

The Blues boast the meanest defence in the Premiership, having conceded just eight goals in their 12 games to date.

Elsewhere on Saturday, Cliftonville face Glenavon at Solitude in a fixture which has yielded 15 goals in their last three meetings.

Ballymena hope to bounce back from defeats in the league and County Antrim Shield as they entertain Ballinamallard United, who have lost their last three, conceding 12 in the process.

Glentoran have collected seven points from their last three outings and face a trip to manager Gary Haveron's former club, Carrick Rangers.

The Glens will be without striker Nacho Novo, who sustained a hamstring injury in the Shield defeat by Crusaders in midweek.

Portadown will aim to build on their victory over the Mallards last week as they host an Ards side who impressed in a 2-1 Shield success at Ballymena on Tuesday.

Irish Premiership 29 October (15:00 BST)
Coverage on Radio Ulster's Sportsound from 14:00 BST
Ballymena UnitedvBallinamallard United
Carrick RangersvGlentoran
CliftonvillevGlenavon
LinfieldvCrusaders
PortadownvArds

Final Score from Northern Ireland is on BBC1 NI at 17:00 BST on Saturday

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