The SPFL Preview: The Lanarkshire Derby, Valentine’s Day in Perth & Can Livingston and Rangers Bounce Back?

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.

Rangers Look to Return to Winning Ways Against Killie

Following their surprising 1-1 draw to Hamilton last Sunday, Rangers will be looking for an immediate response as they host the newly appointed Tommy Wright’s Kilmarnock side.

The hosts come into this fixture still top of the tree by an 18 point margin, but their draw at Hamilton means that the Ibrox side have dropped points twice in their last five league games. Steven Gerrard will certainly be looking for a reaction from his players, who he claimed “didn’t deserve anything” from the game against Accies.

Kilmarnock come into this game following last night’s 1-0 home loss to Motherwell in what was Tommy Wright’s first game in charge. The Northern-Irishman was only appointed on Monday, and despite defeat last night, the former St Johnstone boss was full of praise for his team as he spoke about how he was “encouraged” with the quality in the squad.

Credit: Sky Sports – Steven Gerrard will be looking for a strong showing as Rangers aim to close in on the title

Kilmarnock can potentially fall into 11th place with a defeat on Saturday — depending on Ross County’s result against Hibernian — and with the season rapidly drawing in, Tommy Wright may find himself in a difficult position as they aim to stay up.

Rangers on the other hand, will be looking to maintain their gap on Celtic in 2nd place with a victory at Ibrox potentially extending their lead yet again to 21 points, forcing Celtic into a position where they need another win as Neil Lennon’s side travel to Perth on Sunday.

This seems to be the one of most exciting ties of the weekend. With both sides ready to come out and prove a point to their respective managers, it will be interesting to see how it unfolds.

Writers Prediction: Rangers 2-0 Kilmarnock

Crucial Lanarkshire Derby as Hamilton Look to Move off Bottom Spot

Fir Park will be the host to a massive game between the two Lanarkshire sides as Graham Alexander locks horns with Brian Rice for the first time.

The Steelmen will be looking to build on their strong start since Alexander’s arrival. Off the back of an away win at Rugby Park, a victory on Saturday could see them breathing down the neck of those battling for top-six. The last Lanarkshire Derby saw Keith Lasley take interim charge of The Well, following the resignation of Stephen Robinson. In that game, they suffered a heavy 3-0 defeat. But just five days later, Alexander was hired as ‘Well boss, and he will no doubt be looking to stamp his authority on this fixture.

Hamilton come into this one on the back of their very impressive performance at the weekend, and Brian Rice will be looking for same intensity from his players going into Saturday’s derby. A win for the Accies could see them move out of bottom place, and they could leapfrog relegation rivals Ross County into 11th if the Staggies fail to get points against Hibernian.

Credit: Sky Sports – Accies ran out 3-0 winners the last time the sides met

Motherwell find themselves in a unique situation, a win on Saturday can put them in what was formerly an unlikely discussion for a top-six push, while denting their local rivals’ aspirations of staying in the top flight.

However, if Accies manage to provide a performance similar to last Sunday’s against Rangers, or even their 3-0 triumph in the last Lanarkshire Derby, they can put themselves in a great position for survival. They always seem to do it.

This is a very big game, and both sides will be ready to give it all they’ve got.

Writers Prediction: Motherwell 2-2 Hamilton

St Mirren Travel to Pittodrie to Face McInnes & Co

In what is the only top-six clash at the weekend, Jim Goodwin will take his St Mirren side to Aberdeen in what should be an interesting spectacle.

Aberdeen come into this one on the back of some terrible form having just won one of their last eight games. Consequently, the spotlight is on Derek McInnes to turn the Dons’ fortunes around if they are to stand a chance of finishing in a European place this season. David Cormack, has since publicly backed the Aberdeen Boss in ‘An Update From The Chairman‘, where he has demanded that fans get behind the team as they try to finish the league campaign strongly.

Their visitors St Mirren, found themselves on a very good run of form prior to their 4-0 home defeat to Celtic last night. The Buddies currently sit in 6th place, and Jim Goodwin believes that his side only need to pick up three more victories to all but guarantee their position in the top-six. Having been touted as one of the favourites to replace Derek McInnes as the next Aberdeen Manager whenever that time comes, could this be the perfect audition for the Irishman?

Credit: @ClydeSSB (Twitter) – Jim Goodwin aims to guide The Buddies into a top-six finish

The sides have been every even when competing this season, with Aberdeen winning the last game the sides played at Pittodrie, before St Mirren knocked the Dons out of the Betfred Cup and their most recent fixture providing a 1-1 draw in Paisley in December 2020.

As most games are at this stage of the season, the three points to both managers are crucial. The win for Jim Goodwin would take his St Mirren side closer to a brilliant top-six finish, whereas a win for Derek McInnes takes a little bit of the heat off his back, as many Dons fans are growing impatient with the Aberdeen boss.

Writers Prediction: Aberdeen 1-1 St Mirren

Livingston Look to Bounce Back Against Dundee United

Dundee United will host Livingston as David Martindale gets his side ready to bounce back after their incredible fourteen game unbeaten run ended last weekend at the hands of St Johnstone.

Livingston’s run of form truly defied all odds, and David Martindale’s appointment has been the feel-good story of the season. However, Martindale’s focus will be squarely on the future as his side aim to put Aberdeen under even more pressure for 4th place.

Micky Mellon will also have his side up for the game on Saturday, as the Tangerines ended their eight game win-less streak with a 2-0 victory over Ross County last weekend. Mellon will look to his striker Shankland to be the focal point in their attack after a good showing against County which saw the 25 year-old get himself into a lot of dangerous positions before grabbing his goal.

Credit: Dundee United – Livi ran out 2-1 winners the last time the teams faced at Tannadice

David Martindale will have fond memories of facing Dundee United having won 2-0 in his first league game in temporary charge before being appointed as Manager. The Lions are yet to lose to Micky Mellon’s side this season, after also winning earlier this season at Tannadice (pictured above).

Despite their recent bad form, a win for Dundee United could potentially see them back into the top-six, although it may only be temporary, as St Mirren will still have two games in hand on the Tangerines after Saturday’s fixtures.

Writers Prediction: Dundee United 1-2 Livingston

Staggies Host Hibs at Dingwall

Jack Ross’ Hibs will be looking to get their first win of the season over a Ross County side who they have failed to beat so far.

The hosts, County, come into this game needing to pick some up some points on the back of four straight defeats, and find themselves well and truly in a relegation battle. John Hughes’ men haven’t won since their 4-1 smashing of Aberdeen in January, and three of their recent losses have came to bottom six rivals. Not a good stat for the Staggies.

Their opponents however, come into this one having lost and drawn their previous two games against County, failing to score in both of them. Jack Ross will be looking to ensure that Saturday’s fixture is one which he can gather all three points from to keep a healthy lead between themselves and Aberdeen who are in 4th place.

Credit: BBC Sport – John Hughes desperately needs a win to gather some momentum in the relegation fight

John Hughes’ first win in charge of Ross County came in December 2020 at Easter Road when they comfortably beat The Hibees 2-0. Hughes will be looking for his team to channel a similar type of performance on Saturday, as he will be aware that County could potentially fall to bottom of the table if they fail to get any points from the game.

Jack Ross has recently backed his Hibs side after coming under some scrutiny from fans following a poor spell of results, but claims that Hibs’ recent upturn in form is only important if they “continue to win points and add to our (points) total”.

Writers Prediction: Ross County 0-1 Hibernian

St Johnstone Face Celtic in Valentine’s Day Clash

It’s not a typical Valentine’s Day clash, but it’s certainly one of importance for Callum Davidson and Neil Lennon as they aim to capture the hearts of their fans (I’m glad I don’t write about love).

Anyway, I’m not so sure that the latter can capture the hearts of the Celtic fans anymore. But following three wins on the bounce, Neil Lennon will certainly feel confident as his side travel to Perth to try and make it four. Following last night’s 4-0 victory over St Mirren, Celtic have now scored ten goals in their last three games, conceding just one. The win brings the gap to 18 points between them and rivals Rangers, with many fans still outraged that the gap could be as little as nine points — given that they win their other game in hand — with two games still to play against the league leaders, had they not went to Dubai and dropped points after losing their first team squad to COVID-19 isolation.

Callum Davidson on the other hand has most definitely captured the hearts of his fans (why am I still doing this?) following The Saints’ fantastic recent run of form. The Perth side have lost just once in their last nine games and find themselves in the Betfred Cup Final against Livingston who they beat last weekend, ending their incredible streak in the process.

Credit: BBC Sport – Nothing to separate the sides the last time they faced at Celtic Park

Davidson will certainly take confidence not only from their recent form, but from the fact that Celtic couldn’t beat them the last time they faced. St Johnstone played very well at Celtic Park in December, and arguably deserved to walk away with all three points on the night if it wasn’t for substitute Mohamed Elyounoussi’s 83rd minute goal to make it 1-1.

Neil Lennon was full of praise for his side last night, after he hailed the 4-0 performance as “oustanding”, and claims he is hopeful that his side can continue the winning streak until the end of the season.

Writers Prediction: St Johnstone 1-2 Celtic

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