Crusaders manager Stephen Baxter is wary of the threat Linfield will bring to Seaview on Saturday - but he is looking forward to this Irish Cup quarter-final showdown between the league’s big guns.
The Blues will come to the Shore Road full of confidence after beating the Crues twice already this season - while the other two clashes ended in draws - but Baxter is looking forward to seeing the two sides meet.
“This must be the tie of the round. First and second in the league clashing for a place in the next round. It is a massive game but this is what football is all about.
“Two good teams, packed stadium and a place in the Irish Cup semi-final at stake.
“It will be a tight game but we can only concentrate on what we can do and take it from there.
“It is a big game - which is great - but there are other big games in the other quarter-finals as we have local derbies between Ballymena and Coleraine, and Portadown versus Glenavon.
“Those are also big games and it is great for local football to see clashes like this in the Irish Cup,” he added.
The Crues drew 1-1 with Portadown last weekend, while the Blues were 1-0 winners against old rivals Glentoran.
Those results mean Crusaders’ lead at the top of the Danske Bank Premier League has been cut to seven points but Baxter says tomorrow’s Cup clash will have nothing to do with who goes on to win the league championship.
“This is the Cup and that is the league. If one teams wins we can say about them having momentum and that their confidence will be up.
“But this is just one game and we treat every game like that. I have been pleased with the way our league campaign has gone this year.
“We have only lost two games and you have to be pleased with that.
“The players are working very hard what we achieve this season - we will have earned. You have to earn success and hopefully we can do that,” he added.
And Baxter says they will miss suspended duo Paul Heatley and Michael Carvill.
“They both are suspended and they will be missed. Paul had been playing well and then he gets a red card - that he maybe did not deserve - and now he misses this match.
“But we have a squad and will use that,” he added.
The Crues last won the Irish Cup in 2009 and Baxter says that statistic does not play on his mind.
“We have got to the semi-final a few times. We were in the final a couple of times more recently and lost to Linfield on both occassions - but I am not thinking about the final now.
“I am totally focused on Linfield,” he added.
And Linfield manager David Healy says his side are ready to face Crusaders and that they are on a high after seeing off Glentoran last weekend.
“We take a wee bit of confidence from the wins we have had over them this season - but they are a good side.
“They will also be looking for a wee bit of revenge as they have not beaten us this year.
“But it is a game I am looking forward to, It is one that I can relish.
“We will have a good support at Seaview and they will be backing us as they did on New Year’s Day and at Ballymena.
“It is a game I am looking forward to and all the Linfield supporters will be there and they will be busting to get at it,” he said.
And the Linfield manager said that his side deserved their win at the Oval last weekend.
“We were the better side and it is a tough pitch to play on. And despite not getting the plays our play deserved we were always on top of the game.”