All eight domestic football teams are back in action today for the first time in a fortnight.
Canterbury's hosting of Waitakere sees second play the ASB Premiership league leaders. A home win would see Canterbury go to the top but they will have to banish last season's 5-2 defeat in the playoff semifinals.
Canterbury coach Keith Braithwaite pointed to a pre-Christmas carrot dangling for both sides.
"It will be a strong physical match. It would be bloody good for us to finish  on top."
A Waitakere win would see them open up a four-point lead.
Elsewhere, Auckland City look destined for three easy points in their home encounter with Manawatu.
Mid-table City, who have two games in hand after the Club World Cup, were in good form at the Japanese tournament and face a Manawatu side with one win all season and five defeats.
Nevertheless, City coach Ramon Tribulietx is urging his side to concentrate.
"We have to re-focus. It will be understandable if we are not at our best because it has been pretty intensive for the players."
In the third 2pm kickoff, third-placed Hawke's Bay face an important game against Wellington.
Fifth-placed Wellington have been unpredictable so far this season, but striker and Wellington Phoenix extended squad member Hamish Watson is keen for form on an old stamping ground.
The day's early kickoff is a battle of the basement between Otago and Waikato at 1pm.
Both sides have appalling goal differences of -10 and have just two wins from a combined 11 games.
But after eight players walked out and former coach Declan Edge was dismissed by the board, Waikato are in complete disarray and desperately in need of some seasonal cheer.
- Sunday Star Times
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