Gaps are appearing in the league and today could be the last chance for a number of teams to close these margins.

There's no better place to start than at Seaview where in recent years the North Belfast derby has taken on special importance. It's now a game which regularly has huge influence on the title and Saturday is no different. With nine points between the sides, Cliftonville must feel that a win is vital if they have any hope of wrestling the title away from the Crues.

Gerard Lyttle's team are in fine form. Coming off the back of last week's historic fourth League Cup success in a row, the Reds will be in a buoyant mood as they travel the short distance to the Shore Road. Lyttle has lost just once in the league since taking over from Tommy Breslin. Although among that there have been a number of damaging draws which is the reason they are nine points off top.

Nevertheless, the Reds will fancy their chances at Seaview, a place where they roared back from a two-goal deficit to secure a draw on Boxing Day.

Crusaders will have been disappointed not to win their last league game at home to Glenavon. With the Lurgan side down to ten men, the Crues failed to capitalise and had a number of chances to snatch all three points. But with one loss in 25 games, Stephen Baxter knows that he's also in control of a side who are well in-form.

He'll be without Michael Carvill for Saturday's game but with the attack stocked with quality players, the battle for supremacy may be in the midfield area. In Ryan Catney and James Knowles, the Reds may have the most balanced central midfield pairing in the league so will Baxter combat this and play 3 in the centre of the park? The battle for the midfield could well decide this vital encounter and whichever manager wins the tactical battle here could win all three points.

One side hoping for a Cliftonville win on Saturday will be Linfield. David Healy's side missed a massive opportunity to close ground on the Crues as they slipped to a 2-1 defeat at Portadown last Friday evening. It was a game Healy would like to forget as the Blues had been on a storming run prior to that game. With seven points between them and Crusaders, another unbeaten run is needed between now and the end of the season if they have any chance of catching the Crues.

The Blues travel to a Coleraine side who picked up a derby win last time out against Ballymena United. It was a win which must give Oran Kearney's side some belief and momentum heading into the final stages of the season. They've all but secured a top six finish and a place in that lucrative Europa League playoff so maybe now Coleraine will start playing with the same freedom and fluidity we saw earlier in the season.

At the other end of the table, Warrenpoint's win over Carrick on Friday night has brought all the sides even closer together. Dungannon and Ballinamallard now sit just three points off bottom place ahead of their crunch tie at Stangmore Park. Dungannon picked up a massive win against Warrenpoint on Monday evening with Andy Mitchell netting the only goal of the game. He will be vital in the run for Rodney McAree's side as he looks to bag the goals needed to stay afloat.

Ballinamallard were also 1-0 winners on Monday as they beat Portadown. James McKenna delivered the three points with a brave finish as Whitey Anderson's side made it two home wins on the bounce. Their away form has been better than home form this year with a better points per game average away from Ferney Park. With both sides struggling against the drop, this is a massive chance for either team to drag themselves away from the danger zone.

The Mid-Ulster Derby is always feisty. On Boxing Day, it was remembered for all the wrong reasons with the trouble in the stands. Hopefully this game is remembered for the drama on the pitch. Rhys Marshall's late winner stunned the Ports after Christmas and coming into Ronnie McFall's last league derby he'll be looking for all three points.

Glenavon are without the suspended Eoin Bradley after his confrontation with Colin Coates in last Friday's draw with Crusaders. He'll be a big loss as he's been on fire in front of goal recently.

For Portadown, Philip Lowry has settled in well to McFall's team and along with Mark McAllister looks their main goal threat. The season appears to have come down to Irish Cup or bust for the Ports but a derby win against your nearest and dearest is never an opportunity to be missed.

And finally, a game which could have massive implications on the top six race. Glentoran host Ballymena United. A win for the Glens would put them in a brilliant position for the top six whereas a Ballymena victory could reignite their hopes of being on the right side of the league when it splits.

As always, get out and see a game this weekend. Plenty of local rivalry on show and plenty to play for!