Cliftonville aim for vital victory at Crusaders

Cliftonville's James Knowles in action against Matthew Snoddy of Crusaders
Saturday's north Belfast derby is one of the most important games of the Premiership season

Gerard Lyttle takes his Cliftonville team to Crusaders on Saturday confident of a victory which would move them to within six points of the leaders.

The north Belfast derby could have a huge bearing on whether the Crues will retain the Irish Premiership crown.

The clash of two in-form sides is one of the biggest fixtures of the season.

Cliftonville have lost just one of the 19 league matches played since Lyttle took over in October while Crusaders have been beaten just once in 25 games.

The top four teams in the Irish Premiership

"Cliftonville will come to Seaview and throw the kitchen sink at us," said Crusaders manager Stephen Baxter, who is without suspended striker Michael Carvill.

"We know that, and have to be prepared for it. We need to give back as much as we receive.

"It is a big match but there is a long way to go in this league.

"Our job is to concentrate on our own game and just get on with the task ahead of us."

Earlier in the campaign, Crusaders won 1-0 away to the Reds while the north Belfast rivals drew 2-2 at Seaview on Boxing Day.

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"We have been on a good run for some time now," said Cliftonville manager Lyttle whose side beat Ards in last weekend's League Cup final.

"We had a wee blip with a number of draws but we have got things sorted out and are a team in form.

"Hopefully, we can drive on for the rest of the campaign."

Victory for Cliftonville would also be a boost to Linfield's ambitions of being the ones to deny Crusaders back-to-back titles.

Linfield had a chance to cut the gap at the top to four points but lost 2-1 away to Portadown
Linfield had a chance to cut the gap at the top to four points but lost 2-1 away to Portadown

David Healy's Blues, who lost 2-1 at Portadown last time out, go to Coleraine aiming to beat the Bannsiders for the third time this season.

"We had been on a nice little run before the Portadown game," said boss Healy.

"Portadown had been struggling but they have now taken six points from us. It shows how teams raise their game when they play Linfield.

"We must pick ourselves up and go on another unbeaten run."

Danske Bank Irish Premiership - 20 February (15:00 GMT)
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