PREVIEW | Cockerill: "We'll go as hard as we can."

Head Coach Richard Cockerill believes that this weekend’s Guinness PRO14 encounter against reigning league and Heineken Champions Cup champions Leinster is the first of four ‘Cup Finals’ in his side’s attempt to secure a top-three position.

Edinburgh welcome the Conference B-topping Irish powerhouse to BT Murrayfield this Friday night (secure your tickets now) but currently sit eight points adrift of second-place Benetton.

However, with several international players back in the fold, the capital side will be looking to recapture the home form that has seen them lose just one game at BT Murrayfield so far this season.

“We need to be as strong as we can be because we’ve had some poor results where we’ve slipped up where we probably shouldn’t have,” said Cockerill.

“That’s put us in a situation where, with four league games to go, we’re probably going to have to win all of them if we want to qualify for play-offs.

“We will probably have to win three of the four games to make that fourth-place play-off for Europe, so we’ve got it all to do.

“There’s obviously an exciting European Quarter-Final in a week’s time, but it starts with Leinster on Friday night. We have to be well prepared.

“There’s been a lot of disruption the last two months because of the Six Nations, but it is but now back to the bread and butter of the league and making sure we get it right on Friday night.”

Friday night’s fixture could also see Scotland internationalist John Barclay make his long-awaited return from injury following a 10-month stint on the sidelines.

Cockerill confirmed that Barclay will be in the matchday 23 for this weekend’s match-up after returning to full training last week.

“John will be involved on Friday and will be in the 23,” said Cockerill. “We will hopefully have Matt Scott back as well.”

“Barclay and Matty have both been out for a long time. They’ve trained well; they’ve rehabbed well and they’re ready to play.

“They are both quality players - we all know that - but guys that have been out for a long time take a little bit of time to get back in to their stride. But, to have John and Matt’s experience on the field at some point will be huge for us.”

Cockerill also confirmed that several Scotland stars could return to feature this weekend. However, a decision would be made on their selection based on minutes played during the Guinness Six Nations.

“We will treat it on an individual basis. Some guys that have played a lot of minutes of Test rugby will get a rest because they need it. Other guys that have been out of the squad or have missed bits through injury will potentially be involved at the weekend - so it’s a good balance really.”

Edinburgh now embark on a run of four league fixtures that will essentially define their season. It starts with Leinster this Friday night and Cockerill insists his that side will go ‘as hard as they can’ to claim victory.

“It’s a tough run in. Leinster, Scarlets, Ulster and Glasgow. I wouldn’t say we’re confident, but I would say that I’m comfortable we’re going to go as hard as we can to win.

“We want be in Europe and It’s important for us. We have to aspire to be playing with the big boys every year so that’s part of our development. We will ultimately get what we deserve, but we have got four tough games – starting this Friday night - to make or break our season.”