Tom Vickers’ Northampton Saints v Glasgow Warriors preview

Stephen Myler booted Saints to victory at Glasgow in November
Stephen Myler booted Saints to victory at Glasgow in November

Fixture: Northampton Saints v Glasgow Warriors (Champions Cup Pool 3)

Date/kick-off time: Sunday, January 17, 5.30pm

Weather forecast: Partly cloudy, 1C

Referee: Romain Poite (France)

Saints: Foden; Collins, G Pisi, Burrell, North; Hanrahan, Dickson (c); A Waller, Hartley, Hill; Lawes, Day; Gibson, Wood, Harrison.

Replacements: Haywood, E Waller, Denman, Paterson, Fisher, Kessell, Myler, Mallinder.

Glasgow: Hogg; Jones, Dunbar, Johnson, Lamont; Russell, Price; Reid, MacArthur, Puafisi; Nakarawa, Gray (c); Wilson, Fusaro, Ashe.

Replacements: Mamukashvili, Allan, Fagerson, Swinson, Favaro, Hart, Weir, Naiyaravoro.

Outs: Saints: Clark (shoulder), Brookes (knee), Fotuali’i (hamstring), Dickinson (unknown).

Most recent meeting: Saturday, November 21, 2015: Glasgow Warriors 15 Saints 26 (Champions Cup)

Tom’s preview: Fasten your seatbelts because the next four weeks are going to be a nerve-shredding ride for everyone of a Saints persuasion.

With little room for manouevre at home and abroad, Jim Mallinder’s men know they can’t afford to come off the road now.

Instead, they must win both of their next two matches in the Champions Cup before stepping on the accelerator in the Aviva Premiership.

Because if they are to make the quarter-finals in Europe and keep their top-four bid alive domestically, they need to ensure the next month goes the way of the Saint.

Sunday’s game against Glasgow Warriors at Franklin’s Gardens is followed by a trip to Scarlets six days later.

Win both of those games, and Saints stand a chance of securing one of three best runners-up spots in the Champions Cup.

Racing 92 are likely to win Pool 3 by beating Scarlets in France this weekend, but Saints can still qualify behind them.

Then, it’s back home for games against Wasps and Harlequins, two of Northampton’s main rivals for a place in the top four.

Saints know they cannot afford to lose any more home games after suffering defeat at the hands of Saracens earlier in the season.

And a win at Quins would be a huge boost, as Conor O’Shea’s side currently sit nine points clear of Mallinder’s men, who are fifth.

But Saints will not be thinking any further ahead than this weekend.

And rightly so.

Because they know Glasgow will come to the Gardens all guns blazing, desperate to exact revenge for their defeat to Saints at Scotstoun Stadium back in November.

That dazzling display was one of the best Saints produced in 2015, as they allied razor-shap backs play with a huge forward effort.

They defence was as good as their attack and they looked to be making huge strides in the bid to reach their best form.

They stalled in the away game against Racing in December, losing 33-3, but their defence at home has been far better.

In fact, Saints have not conceded a try in any of their past three games at the Gardens, which is quite some achievement when you consider the visitors during that time have been Gloucester, Racing and Exeter.

None of those sides are short of attacking options, and for Saints to have shut the door in their faces says a lot about their commitment to defending their own turf.

Glasgow will test that stronghold this weekend as they possess plenty of talent of their own.

But if Saints want to progress in Europe this season, they cannot afford to let the Scots conquer their citadel on Sunday night.

Tom’s prediction: Saints 18 Glasgow 11