There are four fixtures in the Irish Premiership this weekend. With Glenavon’s match against Cliftonville called off due to international call-ups, Linfield have the chance to go top if they beat Newry at Windsor Park.
Elsewhere, a revitalized Crusaders team face Glentoran at Seaview and Warrenpoint take on Ards in what could already be classed as a relegation six-pointer. Ballymena travel to the Brandywell for the clash with Institute to round off this weekend’s Premiership fixtures.
Coleraine are also in action – they travel to Wales to face Connah’s Quay Nomads in the Scottish Challenge Cup.
It’s been a stop-start season for champions Crusaders but they’ve shown some signs of a revival in recent weeks. The Hatchetmen beat Institute 4-1 at the Brandywell a fortnight ago and Jordan Owens’ stoppage-time goal secured a North Belfast Derby win over Cliftonville last Friday.
The Crues were pushed all the way by Championship side Ballinamallard in the League Cup in midweek but will be confident of a result against a Glens team who haven’t beaten Crusaders in over four years.
Ronnie McFall’s men have made a solid if unspectacular start to the season and were disappointed not to take anything from their ‘Big Two’ clash with Linfield on Monday night. They make the short trip over the M3 knowing a first win against Crusaders since 2014 would see them leap-frog the champions into third place.
Crusaders’ rocky form makes this a difficult fixture to call but I fancy them to continue their revival with a narrow win.
Prediction: Crusaders 2-1 Glentoran
The Blues are the only remaining unbeaten team in the league this season and have the chance to go top with a win over Newry.
Linfield will be without star forward Joel Cooper but they should still have far too much for a Newry team that have only won one of their last eight games.
Only Dungannon have scored as few as Newry’s seven league goals and in Linfield, they face the Premiership’s meanest defence; the Blues have only conceded two goals in 10 games.
Linfield won 1-0 when the teams met in the Irish Cup last season but my money’s on a much more convincing home with this weekend.
Prediction: Linfield 4-0 Newry
It’s hard to describe a match as a relegation six-pointer just ten games into the season but with just two points and one place separating these two near the foot of the table, that’s exactly what this match is.
Warrenpoint can go into the match with confidence after enjoying something of a renaissance in recent weeks. They lost their first six league matches – conceding 22 goals in the process – but they’ve tightened up at the back and are unbeaten in their last four.
Ards, on the other hand, are without a win in six. They lost in stoppage time to Institute last time out and, despite credible draws against Linfield and Coleraine, only goal difference is keeping them off the foot of the table.
Recent history does favour Ard though. They’ve won two and drawn one of the last three meetings between the sides but based on current form my money’s on some Milltown misery for Colin Nixon and his team.
Prediction: Warrenpoint 1-0 Ards
Ballymena are one of five clubs separated by just two points and if results go their way they could find themselves sitting in third place by 5pm Saturday.
David Jeffrey’s men got back to winning ways with a convincing 3-0 win against Newry last weekend after going three games without a win.
The Sky Blues are always good for a goal. Only leaders Glenavon have kept them out so far this season and they face an Institute team that has become increasingly leaky at the back. Stute did keep a clean sheet against Ards last weekend but had conceded 13 in the four matches prior to that and Ballymena will prove more of a scoring threat than Colin Nixon’s men.
The Sky Blues have won the last five meetings dating back to 2010 and I fancy them to make that six in a row this weekend.
Prediction: Institute 1-3 Ballymena