Irish Premiership: Coates relishing Linfield showdown

Crues ready for Blues onslaught - Coates

Crusaders captain Colin Coates believes the Premiership leaders can scupper Linfield's title hopes in the top-two clash at Seaview on Saturday.

The champions sit five points ahead of the Blues with five games left.

"It is going to be a tough ask against a good Linfield team but we have the tools here to win," said Coates.

Blues midfielder Aaron Burns, scorer of an Irish Cup hat-trick against Lurgan Celtic last weekend, misses the big game because of a two-match suspension.

Linfield have lost just one of their last 15 league games and David Healy's team are making a determined push for the Gibson Cup.

However, Crusaders have an impressive record against the Blues, suffering only three defeats in the last 16 Premiership meetings.

"To retain the league title for the first time in out history would be massive," added Coates.

The absence of Aaron Burns is a major blow for Linfield ahead of the Seaview game
The absence of Aaron Burns is a major blow for Linfield ahead of the Seaview game

"Cliftonville managed to do it a couple of years ago, but there have been some great teams like Glentoran who have not been able to do it.

"We have been at the top of the table since way back in October and the pressure has been on us since then, but we are enjoying it because it is where you want to be in football.

"We maybe haven't played with the same fluency this season but when the big games have come around we have risen to the occasion. Sometimes as a team I think we perform better in those games.

"Linfield look at bit more hungry than in previous seasons. They have had a great run but we are looking to put an end to that."

The first round of post-split fixtures also includes two major encounters at the bottom of the table.

Warrenpoint Town will move off the basement if they overcome Carrick Rangers while Portadown will seek to halt their slide down the table at home against 11th-placed Ballinamallard United.

Danske Bank Irish Premiership
Dungannon SwiftsvBallymena United
PortadownvBallinamallard United
Warrenpoint TownvCarrick Rangers
Coverage on Radio Ulster's Sportsound