Crues relishing big tests against title foes: Owens
Jordan Owens believes the next two games will provide an insight into whether Crusaders have what it takes to retain their Danske Bank Premiership title.
After a stuttering start the Crues have hit form in recent weeks, winning four in a row, but now comes their biggest test with two huge matches in eight days.
Tomorrow they take on Cliftonville in a fixture which brings together the champions from the last three seasons.
And next weekend early pacesetters Linfield are at Seaview in another massive clash.
After a slow start, Owens believes two wins will see the Crues kick on.
"The pressure is on you as champions. You want to do it again, you think you can do it again, but it's going to be hard," he said. "You saw how Dungannon came (last weekend) and played well at times. People expect you to beat teams like that, but the league isn't like that.
"We've two tough games now against two top teams.
"It should give us an indication of where we are. If we can get six points we are right back in the mix."
First up is the north Belfast derby against Cliftonville, champions in 2012-13 and 2013-14.
The Reds have made a strong start and sit two points off the top.
"It's one of those games that everyone wants to play in - it's a derby and there will be a big atmosphere," said Owens.
"They have started well and we know they will be a big test, but we will prepare well for it, everyone will be ready come kick-off and we'll be going for the win."
The Crues have won their last four games, including a 3-1 victory over Knockbreda in the JBE League Cup in midweek, and Owens believes they are finally hitting form.
"It's always important to get off to a good start," he continued.
"In the last couple of seasons we have started off sluggish, and this year has been the same, but we are finding our feet. We've got into a good run of form and hopefully we can kick on."
Owens has scored six times this season, although he is quick to credit his team-mates.
"If I get good service then it's easy to put the ball in," he added.