IN a division as tight as the Clydesdale Bank Premier League, every little scrap of advantage is crucial.
It is understandable, then, that teams attempt to prey on their opponents' every weakness.
Take Inverness Caledonian Thistle. Having identified Hearts' physical frailties on Saturday, the Highlanders simply bullied their callow opponents and secured a first win in six. Tonight, they welcome Dundee United, a team they overwhelmed 4-0 earlier this term before coming back from 3-0 down to draw 4-4 at Tannadice. That record is a psychological scab Terry Butcher wants his side to pick.
"They have good players and they are just adapting to how Jackie McNamara wants them to play," he said. "But will they remember the 4-0 defeat here? And the fact they were 3-0 up against us and we came back to 4-3, before they got a penalty late on to equalise? I wonder if one or two will be thinking about those previous matches?
"Regardless, it shouldn't be 0-0. Dundee United are not a team we have difficulty scoring against but they always have the potential to score goals as well. Both teams like to attack, both have good attacking players with pace, good passing and good deliveries. We are quite evenly-matched, I would say."
That Inverness sit second in the division and United ninth, might suggest a vast gap between the two. Yet an away win would narrow the gap to a solitary point; conversely, a home victory would severely dent United's hopes of pushing for continental competition next term.
Indeed, even a top-six place is far from secure for both clubs with a handful of games remaining until the split. "We all know what can happen," said Butcher. "You can drop like a stone if you lose a couple or shoot up like a rocket if you win two. The games are dwindling and we want to make sure we're well ahead and secure that top-six spot as quickly as possible."
With a similar motive in mind, McNamara last night completed the signing of Marcus Tornstrand to bolster the second most porous defence in the division. The 22- year-old Swedish centre-back has agreed terms until the summer and, although he will not be involved tonight, the United manager expects him to play an important role in the final weeks of the season.
"I think he'll bring aggression in the middle of defence," McNamara said. "He seems to be good in the air and looks athletic and he can talk as well, which is always a good thing. We're hoping he can bring a bit of solidity to the back four.
"He's not quite ready for a first-team game yet as it's pre-season in Sweden just now and his last game was at the end of October. But hopefully we'll not be too far away from putting him in."