DESPITE this weekend's visit of Sale Sharks being Ulster fourth and final European Champions Cup pool match, it is their first home fixture in the competition and they will hope to make it a memorable on against the Premiership side (Saturday, 8pm).

Due to the cold snap in December, a home game against Stade Rochelais ended up in an empty Aviva Stadium, so there has been no home advantage yet for a side that has been struggling for results.

 

The reverse fixture in France last week was due to be one in which Ulster would really struggle given the rut they found themselves in, but many of those recent defeats have been by narrow margins and again last week, the clock was in the red when the defending champions crashed over for a try that saw them nick a 7-3 win.

The bright side of another loss was a losing bonus point that still keeps Ulster in with an outside chance of making the knockout stages of the competition should they bank maximum points and other results go their way.

However, the real motivation will be to turn the tables on the Salford-based club that inflicted a 39-0 defeat on Ulster in the opening game of the campaign.

Motivation will not be in short supply for anyone connected with the club as they get back on home turf with the aim of getting back to winning ways and perhaps even extending their Champions Cup campaign against all the odds.

"We will focus on putting in a performance that puts us on the path to winning," said Head Coach, Dan McFarland in the wake of last week's defeat in France.

"We haven't played a Champions Cup game at home yet this season, so we're really excited for that."

Those sentiments were echoed by flanker, Nick Timoney who believes he and his teammates must forget about their recent run of losses and look to the future.

A victory on Saturday can see Ulster repack the knockout stages and if that isn't to be, then there is still the opportunity to play European knockout rugby in the firm of the Challenge Cup.

The defeats have mostly come by narrow margins, so with the backing of a huge Kingspan Stadium crowd, there is a determination to turn things around this week.

"Taking a step back, we are still in a position where we can get in the knockout stages in the league and Champions Cup, so we'll go into Sale all guns blazing and it will be an exciting home game," said the Irish international.

"I don't think I've played a home game in months so I'm looking forward to it."

Although the result was not what they had hoped for against Stade Rochelais last week, there was much to be happy with in terms of performance.

With a little bit of luck when Timoney saw a try ruled out by the TMO when the ball just slipped away in the wet conditions just inches from the line or a run of penalties in the first half that could have seen a penalty try awarded, they could have had an unassailable lead by the time the hosts mounted their late gallop.

"The guys will remember this game," McFarland said afterwards.

"We were 60 seconds away from beating the European champions at home. Also with the backdrop of our run of fixtures going into the game, we churned out a performance."