CLYDESDALE host Prestwick in the Western Premier’s top fixture and the incentive for both sides is clear: win or risk losing touch with runaway leaders Ferguslie.
Third placed Dale, the 2015 and 2016 champions, were deposed last season by today’s visitors, who are in second, but both are trailing unbeaten Ferguslie.
Colin Mitchell, the Clydesdale manager, said: “Both teams may look on this as a must-win match but the outcome won’t define our season.
“Ferguslie are the standout team but we’ll focus on ourselves.”
The home side are without Scotland star Richie Berrington who is preparing for tomorrow’s ODI against England while Angus Guy also misses out.
Mitchell said: “Prestwick had the chance to play us last season when we were without our Scotland players but that’s just the way the cards fall. We believe we have the depth to challenge the champions.”
Ferguslie remain the team to beat as Clydesdale discovered last Sunday in a Scottish Cup clash which the Paisley side won thanks to centuries from openers Gregor Preston-Jones and Michael English.
With home advantage, the Meikleriggs men start favourites against Greenock this afternoon but they will be wary of opponents whose confidence is high after claiming their first win last Saturday.
Ferguslie go in with a settled side but the visitors are without the injured Sam Sanghera and Chris Hempsey who has work commitments. Fraser Godsman and Ewan Stewart are drafted in.
Elsewhere Poloc have their tails up after last week’s win over Stirling but they will take nothing for granted when Ayr arrive at Shawholm.
The visitors may be languishing at the lower end of the table but their record against the Glasgow southside club is formidable, having last lost a league match to Poloc eight years ago.
A Poloc spokesman acknowledged: “Ayr are always dangerous opponents and have had the edge in recent games. But last week’s win coupled with a midweek victory has helped build confidence in our camp.”
With Calum James unavailable, Poloc hand the keeper’s gloves to Said Sajjad.
Uddingston and West of Scotland, bidding to bounce back from disappointing defeats a week ago, know that victory is imperative to stay on the fringes of the title race. The visitors welcome back Jon Feran and Lucas Farndale to a full-strength team.
Stirling host a Dumfries side who are still looking for their first win of the campaign.
STAND-IN skipper Vasu Reddy admitted Glenrothes face one of their most crucial ever matches today.
They square up to Stew-Mel in a Gilvenbank basement battle which could have far-reaching implications for both sides.
The Fifers have yet to register a victory this season, while the Inverleith outfit only got off the mark last week at the expense of capital rivals Carlton.
And Reddy believes another defeat for his side could pave the way for relegation – even this early in the campaign.
To make Glens ‘ task even more difficult, they will be without cub captain and international all rounder Safyaan Sharif, who is preparing for tomorrow’s Scotland v England ODI in Edinburgh.
Reddy declared: “It is a hugely important weekend for us.
“It is truly a must-win fixture – anything other than that could leave us with little chance of staying in this division.
“Of course we will miss Saffy and we are also without Jamie Penman – so it will be a case of pulling out a result somehow.”
Form-horses Forfarshire will start as favourites against RHC Lions, however skipper Umair Mohammed stressed: “They are a greatly improved side who have proved they are very difficult to beat since being promoted.
“They are especially dangerous on their own turf at Barnton.”
Pacesetters Grange make the tricky trip to Arbroath, who will be keen to get their title assault back on tracks after the unfortunate abandonment at Carlton last time out.
The hosts are without the Burnett Brothers, Shaun Christie and Bryce Carnegie.
In come Adam Brewer and Blair Carnegie.
Arbroath captain Marc Petrie said: “Every match is big – but Grange have that bit extra.
“They have been in fantastic form this season with their whole squad contributing.
“But as usual, I want us to focus on ourselves and our own performance.
“We know if we play to our capability we can earn the result we want.
“Availability has been a big issue this season but I have great belief in our squad depth and the coaching system we have at our club.”
Elsewhere, champions Heriot’s will be fancied to take the scalp of Watsonians at Goldenacre.
And the Aberdeenshire v Carlton tussle at Mannofield could be too close to call.