Ballymena United boss David Jeffrey says the Premiership table-toppers face a stern challenge against lowly Newry City at the Showgrounds on Saturday.
The Sky Blues, who fought back to draw with Coleraine on Boxing Day to lie two points clear of Linfield, clinched a 2-1 win at Newry last month.
"Newry would have been disappointed not to get at least a draw and maybe a victory," said Jeffrey.
"We really had to dig in that night so we know it's going to be tough."
- Ballymena's lead over Linfield cut to two points
- Ballymena edge Newry to top Premiership
- Heatley hat-trick as Crues rout Reds
Newry sit second from bottom and they go into the game without the suspended Darren King following his dismissal in Wednesday's draw with Warrenpoint Town.
Linfield will take on a Cliftonville team aiming to bounce back from a 5-1 trouncing by Crusaders in the north Belfast derby.
The Blues thumped Glentoran 4-0 to narrow the gap and they will go in as favourites for the Solitude encounter.
Third-placed Glenavon remain five points off the pace and manager Gary Hamilton is wary of in-form Institute striker Michael McCrudden ahead of the Mourneview Park game.
"We drew 3-3 with Institute a few weeks ago and it was a really hard game so this will be difficult for us," said Hamilton after a Boxing Day draw at Dungannon.
"The have Michael McCrudden, who's on fire at at the minute and I rate him very highly."
Coleraine striker James McLaughlin is suspended for the Milltown game with Warrenpoint, who are without the banned Anto Reilly.
Suspension also keeps Glentoran forward Robbie McDaid out of the Oval game against Crusaders and a Boxing Day red card for Dungannon's Seanan Clucas means he misses the basement battle with Ards.
|Danske Bank Irish Premiership - Saturday 29 December (15:00 GMT)|
|Ballymena United||v||Newry City|
|Radio Ulster coverage and live text commentary on the BBC Sport website|