Shamrock Rovers v Bohemians: Top two face off in Dublin derby

Premier Division leaders Rovers are looking for their fourth straight win in the fixture

Stephen Bradley jokes that he tried to book 10 days away in order to assess Milan before the Europa League tie in a couple of weeks. Before the Italians come to Tallaght, though, Bohemians are due and the manager knows all about them.

At times over the last few seasons, they have made his life a bit of a misery and for all the progress that Shamrock Rovers have shown this season, he finds himself in need of a result against the his club's cross city rivals as much as ever on Saturday afternoon.

Having usurped Dundalk in what many had imagined was going to be a two horse race for the title, the visitors are on a remarkable run of form with six straight wins in all competitions and 10 goals scored to just one conceded.

The numbers suggest a certain economy to the way Keith Long’s side plays although they actually create a fair few more chances than their return of 12 league goals suggests with the team possessing both pace and width with which to trouble opponents..

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The foundation of their strong showing over the course of the season’s first half has been an outstanding defensive record, though, and Rovers, who have failed to score in either of their recent derby games against St Patrick’s Athletic and Shelbourne, will be conscious of how hard it is likely to be to get something out of this game if they fall behind with nobody having wrestled a winning position away from their opponents so far over the course of this campaign.

"I don't think we did enough in those two games to win them," says Aaron Greene, "but if teams are dropping deep against us, we have to respect that.

"Bohs have quality the other way," he says of his former club. "They will break really well in transition, with Danny Grant and Kris Twardek, they are a really good side and we have to be switched on for 90 minutes. They don't get enough credit for the job they do."

Greene got the goal that gave Rovers their win at Dalymount but he has not always looked the most ruthless since and despite his wider contribution, the position remains an issue for the league leaders.

There is plenty of ingenuity around the striker, though, and the game promises to be an enthralling encounter even without a crowd there to witness it close up.

“I think every game has been altered with the lack of fans and this one will be no different,” says Bradley, who is looking to oversee a fourth straight win in the fixture. I think every one is the same in the league, we want fans back but it’s not going to be the case (this weekend) and we’re used to it.

"The games still have to be played," says the Dubliner who will again be without Sean Kavanagh. "It doesn't matter or have any bearing on how we play or approach games."

In the afternoon's later game, Shelbourne will look to put a bit of distance between themselves and the foot of the table by beating Cork City at Tolka Park.

Ian Morris will be without Brian McManunus for the game while Karl Moore and Karl Sheppard are both considered doubts. For City, Cory Galvin, Alex Byrne and Beineon O'Brien-Whitmarsh have all returned to training this week and will be assessed before manager Neale Fenn settles on his side.

Emmet Malone

Emmet Malone

Emmet Malone is an Assistant News Editor at The Irish Times