Crusaders and Linfield do battle at Seaview this Saturday in the Danske Bank Premiership (c) Presseye

DANSKE BANK PREMIERSHIP: MATCHDAY 26 PREVIEW

The top four in the Danske Bank Premiership face off against each other this weekend in another crucial weekend of action as the title race continues to heat up, we look ahead to all the games.

Ards v Coleraine (venue: Clandeboye Park; kick-off: 3pm)

Colin Nixon’s Ards side have another chance to move off the bottom of the table on Friday night as they host Rodney McAree’s Bannsiders. The County Down side have brought in a host of new faces to get them out of trouble as they start to try and make ground on the seven points that could lift them out of the relegation zone. They were defeated 4-1 by Cliftonville last Saturday at Solitude.

Coleraine have been busy in the transfer window with the capture of Cormac Burke (Dungannon Swifts) and Dylan Davidson (Glentoran). The Bannsiders are rebuilding under McAree and they will be encouraged by their draw with Glenavon last Saturday, as they start the weekend in fifth place.

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

It’s third versus first as the league’s two in form sides meet at Seaview in the day’s biggest game. The Crues have been bolstered by the capture of the talented Hale brothers (Ronan and Rory) and go into the game having successively won their last seven games in all competitions. It took an early David Cushley goal to overcome Newry City last Friday night at the Showgrounds.

It’s the first of a trilogy of meetings between the two sides who will also come up against each other in the County Antrim Shield final and Irish Cup sixth round in the next few weeks. David Healy’s Blues have had the better of the two meetings to date this season and go into this clash unbeaten in their last ten games, having defeated Warrenpoint Town at home last Saturday. Loanee Kyle McClean could make his debut for the South Belfast side after joining from St. Johnstone.

Dungannon Swifts v Cliftonville (venue: Stangmore Park; kick-off: 3pm)

It’s a repeat of the Irish Cup game that seen Dungannon Swifts progress past the Reds two weeks ago. Kris Lindsay’s Swifts picked up a point against second placed Ballymena United last weekend, to take them five points clear of the relegation zone.

Barry Gray’s Reds responded to their recent criticism with a comfortable home win over Ards last Saturday and go a step closer to ensuring their place in the top six ‘post-split’ with a win on the road at Dungannon Swifts.

Glenavon v Ballymena United (venue: Mourneview Park; kick-off: 3pm)

Both sides will be desperate for a victory to keep them in touch with the top of the table. Johnny McMurray provided a dramatic late winner in the live BBC Two broadcast between the sides back in November as speculation still mounts over his future at the Braidmen. David Jeffrey’s men are looking for their first league victory of 2018 having slipped back down to second place after defeat to Crusaders and a draw with Dungannon Swifts last week.

Gary Hamilton has moved to replace the departed Mark Sykes in the Lurgan Blues’ engine room with the capture of experienced midfielder Robert Garrett from Linfield this week. Glenavon’s draw with Coleraine last Saturday was their fifth game in a row without a league win as they look to reign in the seven point gap between themselves and Saturday’s opponents.

Glentoran v Newry City (venue: The Oval; kick-off: 3pm)

Gary Smyth makes his home managerial bow at the Oval after halting the Glens’ alarming run of form with a much needed win against Institute at the Brandywell last Saturday. Goalkeeper Elliott Morris proved the unlikely hero scoring his first ever goal for the club at the 723rd attempt! Glentoran are looking for their first win at home since 27 October.

Newry City visit East Belfast under pressure to start picking up points. Darren Mullen’s side lost the only other meeting between the two clubs this season (4-1) back in September. The Mourne side were narrowly defeated by Crusaders last Friday night but currently remain in eleventh place, two points off the foot of the table.

Warrenpoint Town v Institute (venue: Q Radio Arena; kick-off: 3pm)

Institute will be without influential captain and leading goalscorer Michael McCrudden who is suspended as Institute aim to keep the pace with the top six, as the games keep ticking by. 'Stute lost 2-0 to Glentoran at home last weekend.

Stepben McDonnell and his Warrenpoint Town team were undone by Linfield at Windsor Park but it was the County Down side that came out on top a fortnight ago when the two sides met in the Irish Cup, winning 2-0 at the Brandywell.