It may only be the first week of November but according to Leicester Tigers centre Dan Bowden this weekend’s clash with Conor O’Shea’s Harlequins already takes on huge significance.
The Aviva Premiership table currently has an unfamiliar look about it, with perennial top-four finishers Leicester and Harlequins both out of the play-off places.
The Tigers’ only victory in their last four fixtures in all tournaments was a 34-3 win over Treviso at Welford Road in the European Cup – they lost at London Wasps to the boot of Andy Goode last time out at Adams Park.
Comparatively, Harlequins ended a four-game losing run with their 24-3 victory over Sale Sharks last weekend but have been defeated in their last two away games against London Irish and Clermont Auvergne.
O’Shea’s men have not been successful on the road in the Premiership since beating Worcester at Sixways at the end of September.
And with both side depleted through international call-ups for the autumn Tests as well as injuries – Bowden insists it’s crucial for the Tigers to get back to winning ways if they want to finish in the top-four come May.
“It is going to be a massive game at the point of the season that we are,” he said. “We have just dropped out of the top four, which has come at a crucial time.
“They managed to pick up a win last week, which was their first win in a while. Obviously they got a bit of a monkey off their back and they scored a couple of good tries.
“They bring a lot of threats and there are a lot of international quality players playing for them. They have great handling skills and they offload more than other teams.
“It is great to back home to a sell-out. The support we get there is phenomenal to be honest.
“I have been on the opposition side coming to Welford Road and it can be a bit intimidating.
“We need to get a win this weekend before we head into the Heineken Cup competition.
“Even though we managed to get a home win against Treviso we played poorly and it is important to address that as soon as this weekend.”
The Tigers have lost only one home game in all competitions since September 2012 and that was 27-32 to Saracens in February.
But Harlequins won both encounters with the Tigers in the regular season of the Premiership last year, while Leicester exacted revenge with a 33-16 victory in May in the semi-final.
Harlequins have had a remarkable recent run of success at Welford Road gaining three wins from their last five visits in all competitions and according to scrum-half Karl Dickson the visit to the defending champions holds no fear.
“We have done pretty well the past few times against Leicester but the last time we played against them was the semi-final where we lost,” said Dickson.
“It is a tough place to go but we have to play our own game. We won’t look back at that semi-final last season, they are a different side and we are a different side.
“It is a different situation and we will take this game as it comes – there are injuries and players away due to international call-ups.
“We know we have got to be good up front and hopefully that will give us a good platform but we’re confident.”
Welford Road (5.30pm)
Referee: Tim Wigglesworth (72nd Premiership game).
Assistant Referees: Greg Garner & Kevin Stewart. TMO: David Grashoff.
Live on BT Sport