Should Glasgow slip out of the top two they will have just four games to regain a much sought-after home draw for the play-offs, with the three teams separated by just two points at the top of the division.
Townsend's men arrive at the RDS in fine form having dropped just one possible league point over the past six rounds, while Leinster are also hitting form at the right time with six successive wins in the RaboDirect PRO12.
And with both sides peaking in time for the business end of the season, Warriors head coach Townsend is fully aware how important it will be to get a result in Dublin.
"Leinster are the only team to still have a 100 per cent home winning record in the league and that shows just how difficult our task will be this weekend," he said.
"For the past few seasons they have been the best in Europe at playing with pace, ambition and aggression.
"We have picked a team which we believe is capable of winning the game but we have a number of players who are unlucky not to be involved.
"Those selected must grab the opportunity to play in such an important fixture with both hands. They have to make it very difficult for me to leave them out next week.
"We are disappointed that both Chris (Cusiter) and Finlay (Gillies) will be out beyond the end of the season. It's been a really frustrating time for both players and we wish them a speedy recovery.
"The game on Saturday represents a marker of where we are this season and we are fully aware of the significance of getting a result in Dublin. We will give everything we have to secure a win."
Leinster have been playing catch up for much of the season having lost two of their opening five league fixtures, but last tasted defeat on December 21 against Ulster.
The Irish province edged a cagey affair 6-0 in Scotland back in November and the importance of the return fixture is not lost on back rower Kevin McLaughlin, who makes his return to the starting XV having missed the past two months with injury.
"It will be a tough game. The guys have had a three-week break and I have had a seven or eight week break due to the knee injury so hopefully I can get back in there and I am relishing the challenge," he said.
"I had a small operation but am back running and am chomping at the bit to get back now.
"We had targeted 16 points from the past four games but have hit about 19 which is an incredible return and it has put us back in the hunt and we back ourselves to push for a home play off.
"There is a great buzz in the camp and the returning internationals are excited about getting back in blue.
"We are third, two points behind Ulster and Glasgow and we are playing the table toppers so it doesn't come much bigger then this."
At RDS Dublin, 7.45pm. Live on RTE/BBC ALBA
Referee: Nigel Owens (WRU, 94th competition game)
Assistant Referees: Leo Colgan, B O'Connell (both IRFU)
Citing Commissioner: Denis Templeton (IRFU)
TMO: Dermot Moloney (IFRU)