Tommy Breslin insists Cliftonville’s destiny rests in their own hands as they look to successfully defend their title this season.
The Reds trail league leaders Linfield by five points with 12 games remaining.
That margin could be cut to just two points if Breslin’s men can claim victory over the Blues at Solitude on Saturday.
And with one more meeting between the sides after the split, the champions would have the bit firmly between the teeth approaching the run-in.
“We have 12 cup finals remaining between now and the end of the season, starting with Linfield on Saturday,” Breslin said.
“We know the destiny is in our own hands. If we win the 12 games then we will be champions.
“So that is an incentive for the players, and it is a massive challenge for the club.
“We are desperate to retain the title and be champions again, so we have to be up for every game.”
Cliftonville have been buoyed by last Saturday’s League Cup triumph over Crusaders.
The Reds held their nerve in a tense penalty shootout to claim the first silverware of the season.
Breslin believes the success is a timely fillip ahead of a crunch Premiership climax.
“It was fantastic to win the League Cup again, and it has given everyone a lift,” added Breslin – who has signed midfielder Jude Winchester on-loan from Kilmarnock to the end of the season.
“It was a tough game, and it obviously took a lot out of the players.
“It was a different kick-off time, and it knocks you out of your routine a little. But we have enjoyed a good week’s training and we are ready to go again.”
Linfield boss David Jeffrey is hoping his side can reverse their fortunes at Solitude.
The Blues have lost their last three league visits to the North Belfast venue, including a 3-0 defeat back in November.
“We’re coming up against the champions on their own pitch tomorrow, so we’ve got to go there with the bit between our teeth,” the Blues boss said.