Linfield boss David Healy admits his boys are relishing Saturday’s top of the table clash with Crusaders at Windsor Park..
Both teams approach the Belfast showdown having suffered only one defeat in 12 Danske Premiership starts, so something must give in south Belfast!
The Blues bounced back from their only set back at Cliftonville last week, by dumping the Reds out of the Co Antrim Shield in midweek..
In contrast, Crues manager Stephen Baxter decided to blood EIGHT of his Under-20 squad in their quarter final tie, but they were still too good for Glentoran at the Oval.
Healy, however, insists it’s a chance for his team to cut the gap at the top.
“We are looking forward to it - this a game we are relishing,” said the former Northern Ireland international striker. "I was happy with the performance against Cliftonville on Tuesday night -- we showed a lot of character.
“Crusaders are the champions for a reason. But, come Saturday, we’ll be favourites to win the game. The players will know that . Outside of Linfield, these lads don’t get much credit.
“It's a big week for the football club, that started at Coleraine before going into the north Belfast double header. We have a siege mentality at the club. We are all in it together . . . the players are sticking together
“When times get tough, they stick together. I'm not into excuses, we have played a lot of midweek fixtures of late, plus the match at Queen of the South . . . we’ve had a lot of tough away games.
"All I ask from the players is to show a bit of pride . . . a bit of desire and character to win football matches.”
Healy also urged he Linfield fans, who can be so critical at times, to come out and roar on the team. He adds: “There is no bigger Linfield supporter than myself -- and the same goes for the backroom staff. We understand, we haven’t won anything of late.
“This is a new team . . . I’m a new manager. Things may take a little bit of time, but we all have to stick together. I would ask the fans to keep giving us their backing.
“I don’t want them to support me . . . I’m not playing, but give the players their support. We’ve got the biggest fan base in the country, but sometimes we’ve got to be be a little bit patient. I would ask them to stick with us.”
Crusaders manager Stephen Baxter will reinstate his first team squad for the game. Former Blues midfielder Michael Gault will also be included after serving a ban.
“We had eight players that never ever played a senior game in the team against Glentoran,” he beamed. “But they matched them all over the park for the 110 minutes. They can be very proud of themselves.
“We had only have four senior players involved . . . Craig McClean, (David) Cushley, Richard Clarke and our goalkeeper Michael Dougherty, who organised the young boys at the back. It was a steep learning curve for them. They came out with flying colours. There will obviously be a few changes for Saturday. It's a big game, but it will not decide anything."