Dundalk v Limerick, Oriel Park, 7.45pm
Leaders Dundalk, four points clear of Cork City, are unbeaten in their last 13 league games, going back to a 1-0 defeat at Bray on 25 April. Since then, they have collected ten wins and three draws.
They lost ground last week when drawing with local rivals Drogheda but are still in pole position at the season enters its end stages.
Despite recording two 2-1 wins over Limerick so far this season, manager Stephen Kenny is not taking the challenge of the in-form side lightly.
“Limerick will give us a tough game,” he said.
“There is no doubt about that and they have had some good results in recent weeks, playing good football. From our point of view, we are in good form at the moment. We are playing well and scoring goals.”
Dundalk will be without their long-term injured captain Stephen O’Donnell who remains out due to a knee injury, while Simon Kelly is a doubt with a calf injury.
Limerick boss Martin Russell is chasing a third straight win in charge and a first on the road, having enjoyed impressive back-to-back 4-1 victories over Shamrock Rovers and Bray Wanderers at Thomond Park over the past fortnight.
Rory Gaffney, with four goals in those two games, and Lee-J Lynch have been the outstanding performers for the Superblues as they have moved up to seventh, with fifth place still firmly in their sights.
“It’s the biggest test probably for anybody at the moment because they are the team in form; they’re the team on top of the table and challenging for the title,” Russell said on LimerickFC.ie.
“We know it’s going to be a tough challenge but equally we would like to think they’ll be thinking Limerick are going to give them a tough challenge.”
The Munster side have doubts over winger Kieran Djilali (knee) and midfielder Prince Agyemang (hamstring).
Captain Shane Duggan (hamstring) is expected to be back in contention having missed just his second league game of the season last week.
Athlone Town v Shamrock Rovers, Athlone Town Stadium, 7.45pm
Rock bottom Athlone Town host Shamrock Rovers looking to manufacture a great escape.
The gap between Athlone and their nearest rivals, UCD and Bray Wanderers, is currently six points so any result other than a loss is vital with next week’s tie against UCD in the UCD Bowl already taking on a win all costs game.
Athlone lost their last outing 3-1 to Sligo Rovers.
Graham Rusk and Sean Byrne both doubtful through injury. Sean Brennan returns after sitting out last week’s loss to Sligo through suspension with Aidan Collins set to return after taking his place on the bench last weekend.
Rovers have already beaten Athlone 4-1 twice this season and new boss Pat Fenlon, who hasn’t fully conceded that the title race is over, will be eager to secure a European place via the league.
“We’re not giving up on anything yet, we’re now ten points [behind] so we just have to keep picking away at points and see where it gets us,” he told RTÉ Sport.
“[It’s a] big tall order to get anywhere near the top end of it but we won’t give up until we can’t do it mathematically.”
Bohemians v Drogheda United, Dalymount Park, 7.45pm
Owen Heary’s Bohemians are searching for just their second home win of the season when they welcome Drogheda United to Phibsboro tonight.
And the Gypsies have just one point from a possible six against the Louth side from their meetings so far this season.
They managed to keep a clean sheet in the draw with UCD last Friday but Heary recognises more is required if they don’t want to get sucked into a relegation battle.
“We played very well, but just didn't take our chances,” he said.
“The longer the game went on, the more frustrated we got in front of goal. These things happen in games – the positive thing is we kept a clean sheet – but we were still disappointed that we didn't take our chances and win the game comfortably.”
Bohs will have to plan without in-form midfielder Eoin Wearen, who is suspended after picking up four yellow cards. Also unavailable is Anto Murphy, who dislocated his ankle against UCD.
New Drogs boss Damien Richardson, buoyed by last weekend’s draw with table toppers Dundalk, admits that they will make the trip south targeting all three points, a result which would see them leapfrog their opponents with both currently on 25 points.
He said: “I know that Dalymount is never an easy venue from my many trips there as a player and as a manager. You always have to produce your best to leave with a result and I’m sure [tonight] will be no different.
“I am expecting a tight game as the league table would suggest but there is no point in being ambiguous about it, we are going there looking for a win.”
Stephen Maher remains out for Drogheda, while Michael Daly will face a late fitness test on his ankle.
Bray Wanderers v Sligo Rovers, Carlisle Grounds, 7.45pm
The Seagulls, sitting second from bottom, host Sligo Rovers on the back of a 4-1 loss away to Limerick last weekend.
But manager Alan Mathews says that their performance warranted some sort of result and is keen to build on that for the visit of the FAI Cup holders.
“We know we will be up against a very good Sligo side who come into the game following a good win last week. If we can continue the form we showed in Limerick I am confident we will get a good result on Friday night,” he said.
Long-term injury victim Dave Webster (foot) is certain to miss out once again and there are doubts about Jake Kelly (groin), Adam Hanlon (back), Eric Mc Gill (calf), and Shane O'Neill (knee).
Sligo need to build on their win over Athlone to push on for a European place; they currently lie in fifth place, 11 points behind Shamrock Rovers.
Ahead of the game, boss John Coleman said: "It will be difficult, Bray will not make it easy and they are not there to make numbers up.
“But we know if we play well we will be a match for anyone. If it clicks, we can look very good as we have shown in the past. So if it clicks we feel we can do well over these two games."
The Bit o’Red have lost just once in the last 18 League meetings between the sides.
Raff Cretaro (calf), Iarfhlaith Davoren (hamstring), Jeff Henderson (foot) and Danny North (suspended) are missing for Rovers.
Derry City v Cork City, The Brandywell, 7.45pm
Mid-table Derry City host title contenders Cork City hoping to bounce back from defeat to Shamrock Rovers last week.
It was their first league defeat since May and they were left to rue missing a host of early chances.
Candystripes boss Alan Hutton said ahead of the game: “They will be buoyed by their victory over St Pats and the fact that Dundalk drew. They will feel that this opens the League for them.
“The games between us this season have been very different games. The first game here it was a howler of a game and they scored with a set piece on a difficult surface, it probably needed a set piece for someone to win it.”
City will have to plan without Rory Patterson who serves a suspension, while Ryan McBride and Barry Molloy are both struggling with their fitness and will likely miss out.
As alluded by to Hutton, City will have taken a massive boost from Colin Healy’s late wonder goal last week and be eager to close the gap on Dundalk at the top of the table.
They have already beaten Derry twice in the league this year.
“Derry have a serious team,” said manager John Caulfield.
“Compared with the start of the season, they have brought back in a lot of local players. They’ve stopped conceding goals and they are scoring an awful lot. Peter has them playing well and they are very attacking.
Caulfield confirmed this week that Darren Murphy has cancelled his contract with the club by mutual consent, but the club will continue to assist the midfielder with treatment for his shoulder injury.
Michael Rafter remains sidelined, while Rob Lehane is expected to miss another two to three weeks as he recovers from an ankle injury. Caulfield will also have to do without the services of Billy Dennehy, Garry Buckley and Colin Healy, who are all suspended. Brian Lenihan has been cleared to return after suffering concussion against Bohemians.
St Patrick’s Athletic v UCD, Richmond Park, 8pm
Champions St Patrick’s Athletic are looking to record their ninth home win on the trot when they welcome UCD to Inchicore this evening.
They sit 10 points behind leaders Dundalk knowing that they can ill afford to drop any more points, especially in the wake of a late defeat to second-place Cork City last weekend.
Manager Liam Buckley said: “Aaron Callaghan’s teams are always well organized and we expect a difficult game but I believe we have the players to win the game.”
Buckley is without the services of Mark Quigley who serves a one-match suspension. Ken Oman is a doubt with a calf strain, while James Chambers will face a late fitness test ahead of the game. Chris Forrester and Seán Hoare return to the squad having served their respective suspensions.
UCD boss Callaghan recognises it is going to be a tough game for his side but is hopeful he can get something from the trip.
He will be buoyed by the clean sheet they registered in the draw with Bohemians.
“Defensively we were brilliant last week,” he said. “I was delighted with Niall Corbet and Ian Ryan, and we will be looking to bring that type of performance into [tonight's] game.”
Mark Langtry, Dean Clarke and Tomas Boyle continue to miss out, however, Dean Clarke is hopeful of making his long-awaited return from his back injury over the coming weeks.
There is further good news for UCD as Conor O'Donnell will return to the squad after a finger injury.