Matchday 23 of 38 in the Scottish premiership brings a full card of games as the race for the title and to beat the drop begins to heat up. A very interesting set of fixtures midweek that saw Celtic cruise past St Mirren whilst old firm rivals, Rangers, were defeated at Rugby Park by Steve Clarke’s Kilmarnock who themselves continue to impress. Also on wednesday night Derek McInnes’s Aberdeen continued their recent up turn in form as Sam Cosgrove continued his impressive goal scoring run as the Dons defeat Hamilton at New Douglas Park. St Johnstone defeated Livingston by a goal to nil as Tommy Wright’s side made it four wins on the bounce in all competitions. Elsewhere, it was a difficult night for both Edinburgh clubs as Hearts and Hibs were beaten by Dundee and Motherwell respectively.
The Champions Celtic host Hamilton at Celtic Park at 3pm. Celtic head into this game having won their first 2 games after the winter break with a comfortable wins over Airdrie in the cup and St Mirren in the league midweek. Accies on the other hand are struggling with manager Martin Canning under pressure from the supporters who havent seen their side win in the league since the 1st of December. Hamilton appear to be in serious danger of relegation once again this season and with Dundee’s win midweek Accies now find themselvesjust 2 points off the bottom. New signings Oliver Burke and Timothy Weah have both got off to flying starts in their Celtic career’s with both having scored 2 goals in their first 2 games. Brendan Rodgers will be hoping they can continue that form for the rest of their loan spell at Parkhead. Celtic fans will might also have the chance to see another debut of permanent signing, Ivorian striker, Vakoun Issouf Bayo who was unveiled to the media on thursday. Celtic seem to be back in a groove again and I would expect that continue as they look to go 6 points clear of Rangers before they play on sunday and subsequently I can see another in for the Hoops who will add to Hamiltons current Misery. My prediction: Celtic 5 Hamilton Academical 0.
Without a doubt the game of the weekend comes from Pittodrie where high flying Aberdeen host 2nd placed Kilmarnock. Both come into the game on the back of solid midweek wins. The Dons dispatched Hamilton by 3 goals to nil whislt Kilmarnock had a brilliant result with a hard fought win at home to Rangers pushing them ahead of the Ibrox side into 2nd. Despite a poor result at home to Stenhousemuir in the Scottish cup last weekend the Dons have been in a fantastic run of form before the winter break with manager Derek McInnes and goal scoring revelation Sam Cosgrove sealing a manager and player of the month double in december. Aberdeen have quietly crept back in to contention at the top of the table and whilst all the talk has been about the old firm and the job Steve Clarke has done at Killie, the Dons find themselves in 4th level on points with Rangers and 3 points off top spot. Kilmarnock continued their fantastic form that they have sustained for over a year now which has them a point behind leaders Celtic. Steve Clarke’s men continue to upset the odds as many thought they would struggle against Rangers with the problems they’ve faced with losing star man Greig Stewart to todays opponents but also hearing that Jordan Jones had signed a pre contract with Rangers and his conduct on social media in the aftermath. However it was that man Jones who scored the winner to put Killie ahead of Rangers in to second place. Another interesting dynamic to this fixture will be the influence of Greg Stewart. The forward has just returned to the Dons for a second spell after spending the first half of the season of loan at Kilmarnock and arguably being their best player throughout the first half of the season. Aberdeen fans will be hoping Derek McInnes makes better use of Greg Stewart this time round after a very average spell spent at Pittodrie last season. Its sure to be an interesting sub plot to what is sure to be an intense encounter. These sides have met twice in the league this season with one win each so far. Up until this season Killie hadnt one a league game against the Dons since December 2011. I can see this being a very tight affair and a win for either side will really make them believe they can potentially mount a challenge to the old firm for the remainder of the season. Its very hard to call but I just have a feeling the Dons will edge it with home advantage. My prediction: Aberdeen 2 Kilmarnock 1.
lsewhere in the 3 o’clock kick offs Dundee host Motherwell at Dens. Both sides had wins midweek against the Edinburgh clubs. Dundee will be hoping to build on a cracking result at Tynecastle midweek whilst Motherwell will be hoping to make it 3 wins on the bounce in the league when they travel over the Tay bridge. Jim Mcintyre will be hoping hes turned a corner after a difficult start at Dundee. The former Ross County gaffer has made significant changes to his squad so far in January in a bid to help keep the Dee in the top flight for another season. Motherwell have recorded back to back wins after a poor run of form prior, the Well will be hoping they can continue to string some wins together in order to further distance themselves from the bottom 3. This will be another close game in my opinion and is very tough to call. I think this will be a draw if im honest. I dont think Dundee have it in them to string consecutive wins together even though I do think they have improved. I dont see this being a thriller in all honesty. My prediction: Dundee 0 Motherwell 0.
The final of the 3 o’clock kick offs comes from Tynescastle as St Johnstone are the vistors. Hearts have struggled in the past couple of months after a flying start to the season and a poor result on wednesday has put some pressure on Craig Levein. St Johnstone however have had another good season under Tommy Wright and have recorded 3 wins on the bounce and they go to Tynecastle full of confidence. Hearts will be boosted by the return of Steven Naismith who was suspended midweek, this will be a big relief to Levein who branded new signing David Vanecek’s performance midweek as “rubbish” and you would imagine Naismith will return to the starting 11 in his place. Saints have been tough to break down and have goalie Zander Clark has kept an impressive 11 clean sheets this season and will be hoping to increase that stat at Tynecastle this afternoon. I think this will be yet another close match and I think Hearts’s problems will continue and they will drop points at home yet again. My prediction: Hearts 1 St Johnstone 1.
There are two games on Sunday this weekend. First off at The Simple Digital Arena in Paisley as struggling St Mirren host a Hibernian side in turmoil after a serious of poor results and a fall out resulting in manager Neil Lennon being suspended by Hibs. St Mirren have really struggled on their return to the top flight and many think that their relegation back to the championship is a formality. However there have been signs of improvement under manager Oran Kearney who has been able to make changes to his squad so far in the January window. Despite being dismantle by Celtic on Wednesday night, the Paisley saints will be hopeful of turning things round starting with tomorrow’s game. Hibs seem to be in turmoil at the moment and with uncertainty regarding the managers situation combined with their poor form it could be a tricky afternoon for the Hibees. Despite the problems Hibs face at the moment I think they will have too much quality for St Mirren. My prediction: St Mirren 1 Hibernian 2.
The final game of the weekend is at the Tony Macaroni stadium. Rangers are the visitors and will have a point to prove in what in my opinion is a must win game for the Ibrox side if they are to maintain a title challenge. Livingston have had a great start to the season on their return to the top flight. Their home form has been particularly impressive with opposition teams struggling to cope with the plastic pitch. Rangers will be looking to bounce back from a disappointing defeat midweek to Killie at Rugby Park and Steven Gerrard will face a selection dilemma, will he stick with the 2 strikers and the diamond in midfield to accommodate Jermaine Defoe and Alfredo Morelos or will he revert to the 433 that has worked so well this season. Rangers fans will be hoping that they can bounce back otherwise there is the danger that they could fall further behind Celtic. I do think Rangers will bounce back and edge this though. My prediction: Livingston 1 Rangers 2.