Crusaders manager Stephen Baxter believes Portadown deserve to be touted as genuine title contenders this season.
The two Premiership rivals are preparing to lock horns in what promises to be an intriguing battle at Shamrock Park (3pm) on Saturday afternoon.
The Crues sit second following an imperious 11-game unbeaten league run.
Portadown also remain firmly in contention after 13 games, despite suffering a slight a mini-crisis recently when they picked up just one point from nine.
Last week’s 5-0 hammering of Dungannon Swifts stemmed the tide, however, and Crues boss Baxter is expecting a battle against Ronnie McFall’s side.
“There is no doubt Portadown are title contenders. When you look at the quality they have got in their ranks, you cannot rule them out,” said Baxter.
“Their early season form was phenomenal, and they will be bang in contention come next May.
“So we know what to expect come Saturday. It is a big test.”
While Portadown may be to the fore come the end of the season, Baxter is confident his Crusaders side will also be contesting the top honours.
“We are going rightly and we are hanging in there,” he added.
“All I can ask for is consistency, and we have managed that recently. Hopefully it can continue.”
Meanwhile, leaders Linfield will look to preserve their four-point lead at the top of the Premiership with victory against Ards.
It will be a clash of top versus bottom at Windsor Park, with Niall Currie’s visitors propping up the table.
Elsewhere third-placed Glenavon travel to the North West to take on Coleraine, while Ballymena United welcome Glentoran to the Warden Street Showgrounds.
Also on Saturday Warrenpoint Town take on Ballinamallard United at Stangmore Park, while champions Cliftonville entertain Dungannon Swifts at Solitude.