Linfield's Andy Waterworth and Cliftonville's Garry Breen battle it out earlier this season. ©INPHO/Brian Little

DANSKE BANK PREMIERSHIP: PREVIEW 16/17 FEBRUARY

It may be a big weekend for the BetMcLean League Cup final but there are also four vitally important Danske Bank Premiership fixtures across Friday and Saturday, we look ahead to these games.

Friday 16 February

Ballinamallard United v Coleraine (venue: Ferney Park; kick-off 7.45pm)

The Mallards’ mini-revival will be put to the test as they welcome title chasing Coleraine to Ferney Park on Friday evening. A win for the Fermanagh men could pull them a point behind Carrick Rangers going into the Saturday afternoon fixtures as they look to start putting points together to avoid the dreaded drop.

The Bannsiders need to take advantage of Crusaders not playing this weekend due to their Scottish Challenge Cup semi-final against Inverness, as they currently sit five points off the top of the table having drawn with Glenavon last time out. Oran Kearney’s men have chalked up two wins from two previous encounters against Ballinamallard United this season.

Glentoran v Ards (venue: The Oval; kick-off 7.45pm)

Despite defeat to Crusaders last week, Glentoran have been grinding out results with three wins from their last four games. It took a last minute winner to get over Carrick Rangers at the Belfast Loughshore Hotel arena in midweek, that took Gary Haveron’s men back into the top six, albeit with nearest rivals Ballymena having two games in hand.

Colin Nixon’s Ards on the other hand are going through a real tough spell following four successive defeats and heavy reversals against both Carrick Rangers and Glenavon in the last seven days.

Saturday 17 February

Carrick Rangers v Warrenpoint Town (venue: Ferney Park; kick-off 7.45pm)

Good things come to those that wait! Boy, did the fans of Carrick Rangers have a long wait as they recorded their first win in x games last Saturday against Ards, followed up by a narrow defeat to Glentoran on Tuesday night but two much improved performances will be encouraging to David McAlinden and his staff as they remain ahead of Ballinamallard United in eleventh place in the Danske Bank Premiership table.

A win for Carrick could even take them within a point of Saturday’s opponents, Warrenpoint Town – who will be looking to create some breathing space between themselves and the bottom two teams. Defeats to both Linfield and Cliftonville in recent weeks for Matthew Tipton’s side keep them perilously close to the drop zone, so three points against their rivals will go a long way to ensuring safety in this league.

Cliftonville v Linfield (venue: Solitude; kick-off 3pm)

One of the games of the season which normally has title implications is on this occasion a battle for Europe with both sides locked on 49 points in fourth and fifth positions, respectively.

Unsurprisingly the two tightly matched teams have won one apiece in the Danske Bank Premiership going into this fixture at Solitude. The Reds drew the early season advantage with a 3-2 home win, which was followed by a 2-0 reversal in favour of David Healy’s Blues.

Barry Gray’s Cliftonville bounced back from the BetMcLean League Cup semi-final defeat with a midweek victory over Warrenpoint Town, whilst Linfield were held to a scoreless draw with League Cup finalists, Dungannon Swifts, last Saturday at Windsor Park.