STEVE Tandy has warned that the Ospreys are walking a Pro12 tightrope as they head towards a busy period that will see them play three games in nine days, starting with the Boxing Day derby in Swansea against the Scarlets.
The league champions face the Dragons in Newport on New Year's Eve and take on Zebre at the Liberty on January 4.
And Tandy has made clear that after four defeats in their first ten Pro12 matches this term, his players have little margin for error as they go into the Christmas period.
He said: "We have three tough games and it's vital we take something from each of them.
"We are still playing catch-up a little, because of the losses over the first three weekends and the good form of some of the other teams near the top, so we can't afford any more slip-ups.
"We know the derbies will be full-on, passionate affairs in front of big crowds and that's fantastic for the league and for the players, but we'll have to remain in control of our emotions and make sure we stick to the game-plan if we are going to get our reward."
The Scarlets are second in the table, bidding strongly for a place in the play-offs, but the Ospreys beat them in Llanelli in September and are eagerly awaiting next week's clash.
"It's going to be a great occasion, with a big crowd and a brilliant atmosphere," said Tandy. "Everyone at the Ospreys and the Scarlets looks forward to this game — it will be electric at the Liberty."
The Ospreys plan to rotate their squad over the three games, hoping to guard against over-playing players ahead of their Heineken Cup matches with Leicester and Treviso.
"We are going to have to use the squad and change things about over the next two weeks," said Tandy. "We have faith in our youngsters and can't expect the same players to start every game."