Keith Curle’s Carlisle welcome promotion-chasing Portsmouth to Brunton Park in what promises to be a mouth-watering clash this afternoon.
Despite finishing 20th last year and narrowly avoiding relegation, Carlisle are absolutely flying this season.
Currently in tenth place with 26 points from 17 games, the Cumbrians have the same amount of points as sixth place Mansfield, and only three less than this afternoon’s opponents.
Portsmouth are currently fourth, only two points behind third place Northampton Town.
With their eye on promotion, Pompey are twelve positions higher than where they ended up last time around.
Here, FootballLeagueWorld writer Jack Smillie identifies three things to look out for during this League Two clash…
Carlisle are the second top goal scorers in League Two this season with 29 goals – only 13th place Morecambe have scored more with 31.
A 6-0 victory for Carlisle, or equivalent, would see them overtake Portsmouth in the league. Impossible you may say, but anything could happen in football.
Furthermore, Carlisle’s Jabo Ibehre is the second top goal scorer so far with eight goals already this season. The 32-year old striker is in fine form, and you certainly wouldn’t put it past him to score a goal or two this weekend.
Saying that, the Portsmouth defence won’t be a push-over.
Pompey haven’t made it to fourth without a stern rock at the back.
While they may not have a prolific striker, Portsmouth have conceded seven less goals than Northampton, the team above them, and only Plymouth Argyle and Wycombe Wanderers have conceded less than Pompey.
It is difficult to see how this one could go – there could be lots of goals, or there could be none.
2) Midfield battle
This is a game that could be won or lost in the midfield.
As the two teams here are quite evenly matched, every little advantage that a team can get could be crucial.
Gary Dicker and Michael Doyle are two key midfielders for Carlisle and Portsmouth respectively.
Both with a market value estimated at £350,000, they are their clubs’ most valuable player, and both could play a big part in Saturday’s clash.
Both Dicker and Doyle were born in Ireland and have represented their country at international level, but have never played together in the same team.
Doyle, known for his long stint at Coventry City between 2003 and 2011 where he made 264 appearances, is ageing, but has played in 16 of Portsmouth’s 17 games this season, contributing massively with his hard work, experience and passing ethic. This could be key to Portsmouth’s success this afternoon.
Dicker, who has made nearly 300 appearances for six different clubs in a career spanning 11 years and counting, is a very decent player. Gifted with good technicality, Dicker can see and put in some lovely weighted passes and is competent with both feet.
This battle could decide which way the game goes this afternoon.
3) Chants by the fans
As you may or may not have heard, Portsmouth fans stood up and chanted about their disgust at ISIS during their match against AFC Wimbledon last Saturday, less than a day after the devastating attacks in Paris.
Video footage, shared on social media, captured those who attended the goalless draw belting out the song of defiance from the top of their lungs.
On the other side, listen out for Carlisle chants about Keith ‘mysterious’ Curle, Adam Murray, wanting to play 3-5-2, and even Chris Billy.
If you can remember back to the day in 2008 when Portsmouth won the FA Cup at Wembley, their fans were incredibly loud that day in particular. And they remain as passionate as ever at Fratton Park.
The fans should provide an excellent atmosphere at Brunton Park this afternoon.
Carlisle and Portsmouth fans… how do you think the game will go? Can Carlisle get back to winning ways? Or will Portsmouth achieve a first win in four? Let us know your thoughts and opinions in the comments below!