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Aviva Premiership: Bath v Sale Sharks preview
- Saturday's Aviva Prem preview
- Diamond defends scrum fouls
- Ryan: Worcester win crucial
- Davies: Win could be pivotal
- O'Shea targets Sale showdown
- Young: Sarries had extra gear
- Youngs points the finger
- No action over bite claims
- Ryan eyes great escape
- Sarries cut down Wasps
- Harlequins dispatch Exiles
- Worcester win at last
- Gloucester hold off Chiefs
- Tigers maul stuttering Saints
Bath will be looking to halt Sale's late push for a place in the Aviva Premiership play-offs at the Recreation Ground on Friday night.
Victory over the Sharks would cement third place for Mike Ford's team and strengthen the claim of old rivals Leicester to a spot in the play-offs.
With Sale and Harlequins the only teams capable of displacing Friday's combatants, Bath have the opportunity to all but remove them from contention.
"This is a huge game for both teams," said Bath head coach Ford.
"A win for us would see make us a bit more secure in the top four, while for Sale it would narrow the gap and potentially see them break into the play-off spaces.
"Sale looked very good against Northampton last weekend. They beat a team that have been in the top two all season and will be full of confidence from that win.
"They're probably one of the most underrated sides in the Premiership and when they hit a run of form they can be very dangerous."
Bath make just one change to the team that thumped London Irish 44-23 with Guy Mercer replacing the injured Francois Louw at openside. Full-back Nick Abendanon makes his 200th appearance for the club.
Sale swept aside Northampton 19-6 last Saturday, despite the presence of Saints' star-studded international contingent, to register a third successive Premiership win.
Director of rugby Steve Diamond, who has replaced lock Jonathan Mills with Andrei Ostrikov, wants to see that form continue against Bath.
"This time last year we were scrapping for our lives. Now we are comfortably mid table," Diamond said.
"We might be suffering from a little bit of altitude sickness for a couple of weeks, but we have Bath to come, as well as Quins, Exeter and Leicester, who are all big sides.
"If we don't have the same energy and attitude in those games then we won't win them, if we do we may well win them."
Bath: 15 Abendanon, 14 Watson, 13 Devoto, 12 Eastmond, 11 Rokoduguni, 10 Ford, 9 Stringer; 1 James, 2 Batty, 3 Wilson, 4 Hooper, 5 Attwood, 6 Garvey, 7 Mercer, 8 Houston
Replacements: 16 Dunn, 17 Catt, 18 Perenise, 19 Day, 20 Fearns, 21 Young, 22 Henson, 23 Agulla
Sale: 15 Arscott, 14 Brady, 13 Leota, 12 Tuitupou, 11 Cueto, 10 Cipriani, 9 Peel; 1 Lewis-Roberts, 2 Jones, 3 Cobilas, 4 Ostrikov, 5 Paterson, 6 Braid, 7 Seymour, 8 Gaskell
Replacements: 16 Croall, 17 Harrison, 18 Thomas, 19 Mills, 20 Easter, 21 Cliff, 22 Macleod, 23 Miller
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|Sunday 11th January|
|London Irish 28 - 26 Exeter|
|Newcastle Falcons 38 - 7 London Welsh|
|Saturday 10th January|
|Harlequins 32 - 12 Leicester Tigers|
|Bath 39 - 26 Wasps|
|Sale Sharks 20 - 7 Northampton|
|Friday 9th January|
|Gloucester 24 - 23 Saracens|
|Sunday 4th January|
|London Welsh 13 - 24 Harlequins|
|Wasps 41 - 16 Sale Sharks|
|Leicester Tigers 17 - 8 Bath|
|Saturday 3rd January|
|Exeter 25 - 26 Gloucester|
|Saracens 22 - 6 London Irish|
|Friday 2nd January|
|Northampton 39 - 31 Newcastle Falcons|
|Sunday 28th December|
|Gloucester 23 - 30 Wasps|
|Saturday 27th December|
|Harlequins 25 - 30 Northampton|
|Newcastle Falcons 23 - 25 Saracens|
|Bath 31 - 14 Exeter|
|Sale Sharks 30 - 32 Leicester Tigers|
|Friday 26th December|
|London Irish 24 - 9 London Welsh|
|Sunday 21st December|
|Wasps 48 - 16 London Irish|
|Saturday 20th December|
|Gloucester 16 - 39 Bath|
|Northampton 23 - 19 Leicester Tigers|
|Saracens 78 - 7 London Welsh|
|Harlequins 15 - 7 Newcastle Falcons|
|Friday 19th December|
|Sale Sharks 18 - 11 Exeter|
Read the thoughts and opinions of Phil Edwards with skysports.com