Action from Linfield v Glentoran last season (c) Presseye


It’s derby day in the Danske Bank Premiership on Saturday with two huge games and a relegation six pointer to look forward to as we preview the action.

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

The first of two big derby clashes in the Danske Bank Premiership is at the Ballymena Showgrounds as United host Coleraine. Fourth placed Ballymena United have been grinding out the results in recent weeks with four consecutive wins in all competitions, but they left it late against Dundela in the midweek County Antrim Shield victory. Defenders Jonny Addis and Andrew Burns are suspended, but Kofi Balmer returns from International duty whilst Aaron Burns could feature against his former club.

Unbeaten Coleraine have started the season fantastically well under Oran Kearney – they made light work of Dungannon Swifts last Saturday, winning 5-0 at home to move second in the table, with the in-form James McLaughlin bagging four goals for the Bannsiders. Full back Aaron Traynor could return to the Coleraine panel after returning in the midweek North West Cup game against Moyola Park after a lengthy injury layoff.

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

Stephen Baxter is still the pacesetter at the top of the Danske Bank Premiership and has created a four point gap. The Crues have the best goalscoring record in the division to date this season and followed up their impressive 6-0 win against Institute last weekend with an eight goal salvo against Sirocco Works in the Steel and Sons Cup in midweek.

The Lurgan Blues return to league action after progressing into the next round of the Scottish Challenge Cup with victory away to Fortmartine United last Saturday. Gary Hamilton’s side have only won once in the league this season and are hovering just three points above the relegation zone, having been defeated 4-0 by Coleraine in their last outing.

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

Kris Lindsay must regroup and try and get his Swifts side back to their early season form after two heavy league defeats to Crusaders and Coleraine in recent weeks. Dungannon Swifts remain in the top half of the table and will look to the last meeting between the sides in January, with ex-Reds striker Daniel Hughes bagging a hat-trick, he returned to action in midweek after an injury layoff.

The Reds went toe-to-toe with Champions Linfield last weekend and will feel unlucky not have got anything out of the game, as they went down to a single Jimmy Callacher goal. Paddy McLaughlin’s side got back to winning ways with a comfortable 4-0 victory against Knockbreda in the County Antrim Shield on Tuesday.

Institute v Larne (venue: Brandywell Stadium; kick-off: 2pm)

With the slightly earlier kick-off at the Brandywell, Institute host Larne with both sides wanting to bounce back from defeats in the Danske Bank Premiership last Saturday. Institute’s defeat to Crusaders last weekend was the latest in an increasingly difficult season to date for the North West side, caretaker boss Paul McLaughlin sees his side go into this game with only a single point on the board in their opening six games and are being propped up only by Warrenpoint Town at this stage.

The reality of Larne’s task in the rigours of the Danske Bank Premiership played out at the Oval last week as they fell to defeat to a resurgent Glentoran. They have a great opportunity to get back to winning ways with a victory at Institute, having also won in midweek in the County Antrim Shield.

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

It’s still the biggest game in Irish League football and it promises to be a showstopper at Windsor Park tomorrow with the largest expected crowd of the season to date. Reigning champions Linfield welcome their fierce rivals to South Belfast after returning to domestic action in the last week with wins against Cliftonville on Saturday in the league and then East Belfast in the County Antrim Shield.

Mick McDermott takes his Glentoran side into his first derby encounter full of confidence after five wins on the bounce in all competitions. The Glens have kicked on since their late win against Ballymena United three weeks ago and start the weekend in third place in the table. They defeated Ballyclare Comrades in the County Antrim Shield in midweek for the second time in seven days following the same outcome in the League Cup previously.

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

The two big derby clashes may hold the limelight this weekend, but the game at Milltown may be the most important for the two clubs involved at the bottom end of the table as Warrenpoint Town look for their first points of the season against newly promoted Carrick Rangers. It’s been a tough campaign for Stephen McDonnell and his young squad – they were defeated 4-0 by Ballymena United last Saturday.

Niall Currie starts Saturday in tenth place in the table, just three points ahead of their opponents. They sat out last week’s round of fixture with opponents Glenavon in Scottish Challenge Cup action but subsequently exited the County Antrim Shield at the hands of HW Welders – the points on offer at Milltown could prove vital for either team in battle to avoid relegation to the Championship.