Crusaders and Glentoran go head to head this weekend in the Danske Bank Premiership ©INPHO/Matt Mackey

DANSKE BANK PREMIERSHIP: MATCHDAY 17 PREVIEW

The busy month of December starts now for the Danske Bank Premiership, we look forward to the weekend's games.

Ards v Glenavon (venue: Bangor Fuels Arena; kick-off: 3pm)

Glenavon’s unbeaten run came to an end last weekend against Coleraine but they will be looking to keep the pace with Coleraine and Crusaders having dropped into third place on goal difference. Earlier this season the two sides met at Mourneview Park with Mark Sykes scoring twice in a 3-0 win.

It was a real mixed week for Colin Nixon’s Ards as following the elation of a first win at the Oval against Glentoran in many years they followed it up with a disappointing performance in the semi-finals of the County Antrim Shield, losing 3-0 to Ballymena United.

BetMcLean odds: Ards win [5/1], Draw [7/2], Glenavon win [2/5]

Ballymena United v Ballinamallard United (venue: Ballymena Showgrounds; kick-off: 3pm)

Gavin Dykes’ rallying call last weekend worked as he halted the losing streak at Ballinamallard with a draw against Warrenpoint Town, they will look to go one better this weekend as they travel to the Ballymena Showgrounds in search of three points.

That will be no mean feat, as David Jeffrey has turned Warden Street into a fortress having gone unbeaten in their last eight home games, winning seven of those including Tuesday night’s Shield semi-final victory over Ards. The Braidmen have already defeated the Fermanagh side this season, winning 3-1 at Ferney Park in September.

BetMcLean odds: Ballymena United win [2/9], Draw [9/2], Ballinamallard United win [17/2]

Carrick Rangers v Coleraine (venue: Belfast Loughshore Hotels Arena; kick-off: 3pm)

Life doesn’t get any easier for Carrick boss Davy McAlinden who watched his side fall to two more defeats this past week against Dungannon Swifts (Danske Bank Premiership) and Crusaders (County Antrim Shield) respectively, taking it to seven consecutive losses for the East Antrim men.

Oran Kearney will be looking not to lose further ground on their fellow title challengers as they enter the busy festive period, having lost to Linfield and drawn with both Crusaders and Glenavon in their last four games, which has seen their lead reduced to six points. The return of Brad Lyons from injury will be a welcome boost for the Bannsiders as travel to the Belfast Loughshore Hotels Arena on Saturday.

BetMcLean odds: Carrick Rangers win [17/2], Draw [9/2], Coleraine win [2/9]

Crusaders v Glentoran (venue: Seaview; kick-off: 3pm)

The only Danske Bank Premiership clash of the weekend between two top six teams as Crusaders host Glentoran at Seaview in a repeat of the Sky Sports fixture earlier in the season which Stephen Baxter’s side comfortably won.

Gary Haveron’s side will have done a lot of soul searching after their defeat at home to Ards last weekend and will face a tough test against Crusaders who are unbeaten in 11 games and progressed to the final of the County Antrim Shield with a narrow victory over Carrick Rangers on Tuesday evening.

BetMcLean odds: Crusaders win [1/3], Draw [7/2], Glentoran win [13/2]

Linfield v Dungannon Swifts (venue: Windsor Park; kick-off: 3pm)

Never rule the Blues out! Following huge back-to-back Danske Bank Premiership wins against title rivals Coleraine and Glenavon, David Healy’s men look to put their Autumn dip in form behind them with nine points between themselves and Coleraine, with a game in hand. They will be boosted by the announcement of signing striker Kurtis Byrne, most recently with St. Patrick’s Athletic.

Rodney McAree’s Dungannon Swifts maintained the pace in their own mid-table ‘mini-league’ in the battle for sixth place captilising on Glentoran and Ballymena United’s defeats last weekend with a comfortable 4-0 win against Carrick Rangers, with captain Ryan Harpur bagging a hat-trick.

BetMcLean odds: Linfield win [1/5], Draw [9/2], Dungannon Swifts win [10/1]

Warrenpoint Town v Cliftonville (venue: Milltown; kick-off: 3pm)

Cliftonville manager Barry Gray returns home to his former club for the first time in the opposition dugout to face off against his protegee Matthew Tipton. His Reds’ side are currently the in form team in the Danske Bank Premiership, capping off a hugely impressive November with a fifth win and fifth consecutive clean sheet against Ballymena United last weekend.

Last weekend’s point for Tipton’s Warrenpoint side moved them another small step away from danger as they currently sit outside of the relegation places by three points from Carrick Rangers, but with only one win in their last six – the Christmas period will be vital to their longer term Premiership survival.

BetMcLean odds: Warrenpoint Town win [5/1], Draw [3/1], Cliftonville [4/9]