Welcome to the latest installment of The SPFL Premiership Preview. Written by myself, Ciaran Foreman, I’ll be looking ahead to all the upcoming action in the SPFL Premiership as another weekend of footballing drama beckons.
Betfred Cup Final Teaser as Untouchable Livi Welcome St Johnstone
Just 22 days before they meet at Hampden, Livingston will host St Johnstone on Saturday afternoon in what could be an indicator as to who will come out Betfred Cup Champions.
Livingston come into this game sky-high on confidence, now unbeaten in 14 games (including 11 wins), David Martindale’s side look to be the favourites in almost every game they go into right now.
On the other hand, St Johnstone have wrestled with their form throughout the campaign and despite losing their previous two fixtures to Livingston, they can certainly be encouraged by their recent spell of results.
Prior to last night where they suffered a 1-0 loss to runaway leaders Rangers, St Johnstone found themselves unbeaten in 7 games, including their 3-0 Betfred Cup Semi-Final triumph over Hibernian.
This match has all the ingredients to be a cracker, and I’m sure many will be watching on with interest as both sides try to set the tone for the Betfred Cup Final at the end of the month.
Writers Prediction: Livingston 3-1 St Johnstone
Alexander’s Motherwell Make the Trip to Parkhead
Following their 4-0 victory over Kilmarnock, Celtic will be aiming to build on their mid-week win by stringing a few consecutive results together. However, that is easier said than done for Celtic this season. With only 2 wins in their last 7 league games, Neil Lennon’s side need to start picking up some regular wins if they are to guarantee a 2nd place finish, something no Celtic supporter would have seen as a plausible scenario before this season started.
Meanwhile, Graham Alexander seems to be getting his newly inherited Motherwell side to click. With only one loss since his arrival – when his 10 men were defeated at Pittodrie – and two recent victories on the bounce, Motherwell have every right to come into this fixture believing they can get something out of it.
Despite only being in charge for 9 days at the time, Alexander’s side managed to hold Rangers to a 1-1 draw at Fir Park, becoming only the third side in the league to stop them from winning. In this game, they looked very well organised and found themselves unlucky to concede a late goal to Cedric Itten who Graham Alexander claimed “look(ed) offside”.
It’s likely that Motherwell will set up in a similar way, with a game-plan to frustrate Celtic and to hit them on the counter, a tactic which Celtic have struggled against this season.
Writers Prediction: Celtic 1-0 Motherwell
Easter Road the Venue in 3rd vs 4th Battle
It’s 3rd vs 4th on Saturday as Jack Ross’ Hibs welcome Derek McInnes’ Aberdeen.
The hosts come into the match with two consecutive wins following a poor spell of results with their win on Tuesday over St Mirren meaning they leapfrogged Aberdeen into 3rd place, who lost 2-0 to Livingston on the same night.
Despite being 2 points behind Hibs in the league, Aberdeen have a game in hand on The Hibees and could return to 3rd, just five points behind Celtic if they manage to get an away victory. The Dons have been in very poor form of late, and they will be desperate to put an end to a run of just 1 win in their last 7 games.
In the last meeting between the two sides, Aberdeen ran out 2-0 winners after strikes from Scott Wright and Sam Cosgrove put The Dons two up within 12 minutes. However, Wright and Cosgrove have both departed in the January transfer window to Rangers and Birmingham respectively.
Having brought in three forwards in the January window on loan deals – ex-Hibs and Rangers striker Florian Kamberi, Everton Academy Graduate Fraser Hornby and St Johnstone’s Callum Hendry – Derek McInnes will want to get his side back firing again, starting with Saturday’s fixture.
Writers Prediction: Hibernian 1-1 Aberdeen
St Mirren Host Managerless Killie as Top Six Push Continues
St Mirren will be hoping to retain their place in the top six when they host Kilmarnock on Saturday afternoon.
Jim Goodwin’s side come into the match on a very erratic run of form: losing the Betfred Cup Semi-Final, smashing 7th placed Dundee United 5-1, winning at Celtic Park for the first time in 31 years before losing to Hibs where their goalkeeper Jak Alnwick was sent-off in the 36th minute.
Kilmarnock, coming from their 4-0 loss to Celtic, go into their second game without a permanent manager following Alex Dyer’s decision to leave the club with mutual consent. Despite losing 4-0 on Tuesday, they forced Celtic goalkeeper Scott Bain into action a number of times and on another night could have scored a few goals.
If St Mirren manage to win on Saturday afternoon, they could retain their place in the top six by four points (depending on other results) while having three games in hand over Dundee United who currently occupy 7th place.
Again dependent on other results, if Kilmarnock lose the tie, they could fall down the table into 11th, not where you imagine they’d planned to be at this stage when drawing up their pre-season targets.
Writers Prediction: St Mirren 2-1 Kilmarnock
Ross County Face Out of Form Dundee United at Dingwall
Dundee United will have to make the trip up north to Dingwall as they face John Hughes’ Ross County in what should be a tightly contested affair.
Ross County come into the match fresh from their 2-1 win against Hamilton Accies and will be looking to make it two wins in a row for the first time since Hughes’ appointment in December 2020.
Meanwhile their opponents, Dundee United have struggled in recent weeks, with yesterdays 2-1 loss to Motherwell making it just the 1 win in 12 matches in a run which stretches back to the 5th of December 2020. The confidence boost for The Tangerines coming into this fixture however, is that their two most recent ties against Ross County brought them 2-1 victories home and away, albeit before John Hughes was appointed County boss.
Dundee United boss Micky Mellon has dismissed claims that his side are in for a relegation battle, but a loss on Saturday could see St Johnstone overtake them. Meanwhile Motherwell, are also hot on their trail with two games in hand on United.
On the other hand, a win for Ross County could see them rise out of 11th place above both Kilmarnock and Motherwell, again depending on results elsewhere.
Writers Prediction: Ross County 2-1 Dundee United
League Leaders Rangers Travel to Struggling Accies
It’s top vs bottom on Sunday afternoon as Rangers face Hamilton Accies, with 56 points of a difference between the two sides.
Hamilton’s last victory came at the New-Year, when they defeated local rivals Motherwell 3-0, in what would be former ‘Well boss Stephen Robinson’s last game in charge. Since that victory however, Hamilton have only scored one goal, which came in last night’s 2-1 loss to relegation rivals Ross County.
Rangers on the other hand come into this match the overwhelming favourites as their march for the title continues. Having won 9 out of their last 10 league games in a so far undefeated campaign, Steven Gerrard’s players will no doubt come into this game very high on confidence against a Hamilton side who they dismantled 8-0 at Ibrox the last time the sides met.
I’m sure Brian Rice will be hoping to see fight and desire from his players on Sunday, two things that might not win you football matches alone, but will certainly give him some form of encouragement for Hamilton’s tricky list of fixtures as their fight for survival continues.
It would be ridiculous to assume that any match is a write-off in football given all that can happen in 90 minutes, but this game does appear to be one of the biggest mismatches you will see all season.
Writers Prediction: Hamilton 0-3 Rangers