TAMWORTH FC coach Greg Bartlett is preparing his side for "a tough, hard encounter" with cross-town rivals Oxley Vale Attunga.
Currently sitting atop the Premier League ladder, FC will come into Saturday's clash at Johnson Field after a bye.
The Mushies will be looking to bounce back from a 2-1 loss to South Armidale last start.
Bartlett said the match-up would be "finals shaping".
"We are currently sitting four points clear on top of the ladder and we would love it to stay that way," Bartlett told the Leader.
"This will be an important game for both clubs in both grades.
"Last time we played OVA there was only one goal in it. I'm expecting it to be just as much of a tight encounter, played in the right spirit, this time around."
FC will be without key defender Ross Price for the clash, after he received two yellow cards against South Armidale.
"Ross is a big loss for us but I'm confident the rest of our defenders will be able to stand up," Bartlett said.
"Matt Gardner has made a massive impact for us in the couple of weeks he has been back and Zac Cam will come into the side to replace Ross.
"Matt has mad a big difference for us and I expect our defence will be able to hold up again."
Bartlett said last week's bye made a major difference to his side's preparation.
"To be honest, It [the bye] probably came at exactly the right time," he said.
"Kurt Barrow had been carrying a bit of a hamstring niggle and Cam Potter was playing injured as well.
"The bye has really helped both of them freshen up. They were playing well beforehand but I think it really helped them."
Mushies playing coach Mitchell O'Keefe said his side was also a chance to welcome back some big inclusions.
"We should hopefully have James Bailey back for our next clash with Tamworth FC," O'Keefe said.
"He has had a bit of an interrupted season because of work, but when available, he makes a big difference to our side."
Bartlett said victory on Saturday would be crucial to his side's momentum coming into the finals series.
"The last thing you want is inconsistent form coming into a finals campaign," he said.
"OVA is a quality team, who we often have close encounters with, so a win on Saturday will be massive for us.
"They will be coming to play, so we have to make sure we are ready for them."
In the round's other action South Armidale will be out to make it two wins on the trot against East Armidale, while North Armidale will play host to Demon Knights.