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.
St Mirren Welcome Livingston in Top-Six Battle
Livingston will travel to Paisley to face St Mirren as the two sides face off for the first time since their Betfred Cup Semi-Final clash.
St Mirren head into this one without a win in three games following an encouraging spell of victories that saw them climb into the top-six. Buddies boss Jim Goodwin – who recently committed his future to the club until 2024 – will be looking for his side to pick up a crucial three points against the Livingston team that ended their cup hopes.
Although it won’t just be St Mirren that will want to set the record straight. Following Livingston’s 14 game unbeaten run, The Lions have now lost two games in a row after their 2-1 home loss to St Johnstone, and a heavy 3-0 defeat away to Dundee United.
The last meeting between the two sides was the aforementioned Semi-Final which saw Livingston run out 1-0 winners on the day. Prior to David Martindale’s arrival, however, St Mirren have came away with all six points in the league so far after two 1-0 victories home and away.
A win for the visitors on Saturday would see them go just three points behind the struggling Aberdeen who currently occupy 4th place, which would take Martindale’s men that little bit closer to the European spot which all Livi fans are dreaming of. St Mirren however, can put that dream on hold. With a win for The Buddies tightening the gap between themselves and their opponents on Saturday, who currently hold a healthy gap of five points above them.
This game is set to be a tight affair; with both sides looking to get back to winning ways and all previous encounters being so close, I can’t see anything separating the two.
Writers Prediction: St Mirren 1-1 Livingston
Hamilton Travel to Easter Road
Hibernian will host Hamilton on Saturday afternoon in what should be an intriguing clash between two sides with very different expectations at this stage of the season.
The hosts find themselves on a very good run of form, although this game is their first match in two weeks following the postponement of last weekends tie at Ross County. Prior to this however, Jack Ross’ side picked up an impressive three wins on the bounce and seem to be nailing down 3rd place as theirs to lose.
From a Hibs perspective, this is probably the worst time to play Hamilton all season. Having struggled with form throughout the campaign, Brian Rice’s side are gathering momentum at a crucial stage of the season, and after a run of three games unbeaten, have lifted themselves off the foot of the table. Recent trends in the SPFL Premiership would suggest that this run of form they are currently going through is the difference between them staying up or being relegated. The latter being the one they always seem to avoid.
Looking at the two league meetings that these teams have played each other up until this point, Jack Ross will certainly be the happier of the two managers coming into this one. Easter Road was host to a 3-2 Hibs victory last October, before The Hibees then smashed Hamilton 4-0 at New Douglas Park.
It’s likely that this game will be close, with Hibs looking to extend their points margin to seven above Aberdeen, a victory is required. But their opponents won’t make it easy for them, Hamilton will be looking to exploit Hibs’ two-week break since last playing, and that could benefit their recent high-intensity performances. It’s a difficult one to call but I think Hibs’ quality will see them through.
Writers Prediction: Hibernian 2-1 Hamilton
Steelmen Host St Johnstone
9th placed Motherwell host 8th placed St Johnstone at Fir Park in what is a crucial game for both teams.
The hosts will be looking to rectify all the embarrassment of last weekends battering at the hands of their rivals, Hamilton. The 4-1 home loss put an abrupt end to Motherwell’s impressive run of form which saw them pick up three wins out of four as they try to distance themselves from any relegation scraps.
Their opponents come into this match in a good spell of form. The Saints have only lost twice in 2021 – only to Celtic and Rangers – and will be looking to continue that good run with a victory on Saturday before playing in the Betfred Cup Final next weekend.
The Steelmen are yet to be beaten by St Johnstone in the league this season, however, it was The Saints who knocked Motherwell out of the Betfred Cup last November. All before Graham Alexander arrived in North Lanarkshire to take over from Stephen Robinson.
Although Motherwell’s loss last weekend was only their third since Graham Alexander took charge, they looked very disjointed and reckless against a side who their fans expected them to beat. Losing interim captain Stephen O’Donnell for this fixture may be another big blow to them, and so, I can’t see past St Johnstone who look to be one of the hardest teams to beat in current form.
Writers Prediction: Motherwell 0-2 St Johnstone
Under Fire McInnes Faces Wright’s Kilmarnock
Pittodrie is the venue in a game which pits Aberdeen against Kilmarnock, a massive game for both sides’ respective managers.
Aberdeen have now failed to score in six games – the worst record in the clubs 118 year history. Following their 1-0 defeat to Celtic last night, they have three losses and three draws in their last six games. This terrible run of form is now seriously jeopardising Aberdeen’s chances of finishing in a European place with Livingston breathing down their neck.
Kilmarnock boss Tommy Wright will know that this is an excellent chance to get three points on the board for the first time since his appointment. However, he seems to have inherited the same problem that his managerial counterpart is facing – Killie can’t score goals. They have failed to find the back of the net in all three of his games in charge, however, the recent signing of Kyle Lafferty was sanctioned to combat this, and it is likely that the Northern Irishman will feature in Saturday’s squad.
The last two meetings between the sides saw Aberdeen win 1-0 at Pittodrie last September, before winning 2-0 when Kilmarnock were reduced to ten men.
It may not be the most enticing of games, but a win for either team could be crucial. A win for Kilmarnock is crucial considering that they’re only four points above Hamilton and Ross County, who have a game on hand on them. Whereas, Aberdeen need to start scoring, and they need to pick up a victory on Saturday to end this rut. I can’t see a winner in this one.
Writers Prediction: Aberdeen 1-1 Kilmarnock
In-Form Tangerines Travel to League Leaders
Just three days after their Round of 32 Europa League Tie, Rangers will return to domestic action as they host Dundee United at Ibrox.
The hosts come into this match in good form, with their victory against Kilmarnock last weekend making it won four wins from their last five, retaining their unbeaten status in the process. A victory on Sunday could take the league leaders another step closer to winning the title. Despite picking up crucial victories however, Rangers have only scored four in their last four games, with three of them being 1-0 wins. Although that may not be Steven Gerrard’s favourite statistic, those are the type of performances that win you leagues.
Dundee United come into this one on the back of two consecutive victories and two clean sheets to go with it. Those victories have all but ensured that Micky Mellon’s side won’t get themselves caught up in any lower table scraps. They are firmly in a battle for 6th place with St Mirren, and if get a result on Sunday against the odds, can potentially re-enter the top-six.
The hosts will fancy their chances on Sunday, having beaten Dundee United in their last two league fixtures. The first of their victories came at Ibrox, with an emphatic 4-0 win, before winning 2-1 in a close affair at Tannadice.
The victory can put Rangers up to 18 points clear at the top of the table if Celtic fail to win, with just 8 games to play. However, Lawrence Shankland has found himself in some very good form as of late in a crucial point in the season for United, and will look to cause some problems for the Rangers defence that have only conceded eight goals all season.
Writers Prediction: Rangers 3-1 Dundee United
Relegation Battlers County Host Celtic
Celtic will make the trip up to Dingwall as they face a Ross County side who find themselves at the foot of the table.
The hosts come into this match having not played for two weeks after the postponement of the Hibs fixture. However, prior to the postponement, they suffered a 2-0 loss at home to Dundee United. Any sort of result for County on Sunday will be a massive bonus to them as they currently sit one point behind Hamilton in 11th place, and John Hughes will know that his team have to start picking up some points if they are to avoid the drop.
However, they are facing a Celtic side who have racked up five wins in a row and seem to be hitting their best form of the season too late. Following their 1-0 win at Aberdeen last night, Celtic have completed the remaining games in hand and have brought the margin between themselves and Rangers to 15 points. Neil Lennon will know that the only option to keep supporters from meltdown just now is to keep winning games, and to shorten that gap behind their biggest rivals before the end of the season.
The previous two league fixtures between these two sides have resulted in two victories for Celtic. The first of the season resulted in a 5-0 Celtic win at Dingwall, before a 2-0 victory at Celtic Park. However, in between those fixtures was County’s astounding Betfred Cup victory when they beat the reigning holders 2-0 in Glasgow.
Despite that cup win, County are facing a different Celtic side on Sunday. Celtic will know that anything other than a win is a failure. County will make it a tough game, but I can’t see past the visitors for this one.
Writers Prediction: Ross County 0-3 Celtic