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Cliftonville will come to Linfield at full strength, insists Callacher

By Alex Mills

Linfield ace Jimmy Callacher believes Cliftonville will be coming to Windsor Park tomorrow with all guns blazing, regardless of next week's Irish Cup final showdown with Coleraine.

The 27-year-old dismisses the theory the Reds will be holding back in what is a meaningless Danske Bank Premiership outing for Barry Gray's boys.

Cliftonville are guaranteed a fifth-place finish, but the Blues still have ambitions of sneaking into third place, which could carry a ticket to European football.

Callacher admits it's not the scenario he'd hoped for, especially after last season's triple trophy triumph, but the team's performances simply haven't warranted anything better.

"The league table doesn't lie," he said. "We go into the final league match of the season in fourth place because Crusaders, Coleraine and Glenavon have been better than us.

"Yes, we still have a chance of claiming third place which gives us a big incentive against the Reds, but we are also looking for a favour from Coleraine (to beat Glenavon).

"After our success last season, we were tipped by many to regain the title, but we haven't got anywhere near it.

"Consistency has been our problem. When we've had an off day, and there were too many of those, we were punished. There were too many poor displays. So, there is no hiding place - we just haven't been good enough."

Callacher expects another rough and tumble affair against the Reds, saying: "Games against Cliftonville are always feisty and this one will be no different.

"They may have the cup final coming up next week, but they'll want to build up a winning momentum going into that game. I don't go with the trend that Barry will rest a lot of his players with the final in mind.

"We did that a couple of years ago - left out a number of players for our final few league games, but we were still beaten in the Irish Cup final by Glenavon. Personally, I think it's better to be playing rather than being rested before a big game."

Callacher insists it's vital for Linfield to unlock the door to European football, whether it be by finishing in third place - which would be good enough should Coleraine lift the Irish Cup - or via the end-of-season play-offs.

"It's the minimum requirement," he added. "It's massive in terms of financial reward. We didn't want to be involved in the lottery of the play-offs, but it is what it is. It's vital that everyone stands up to be counted to make sure it happens.

"People are always quick to criticise Irish League football, but what a finish we have at both ends of the table on the final day of the season. It's brilliant."

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