Scottish Premiership Matchweek 10 Preview
For two weeks running, the Scottish Premiership has had 19 goals scored within the 6 games over the weekend, with big wins for three teams going a long way in creating this. There would be no European hangover for Celtic or Rangers, with the Hoops defeating Hibs 3-0 and Rangers tearing Motherwell apart with a 5-1 victory at Fir Park. Aberdeen would bounce back after consecutive defeats during the last week with a very comfortable 3-0 victory away to Ross County. Nicke Kabamba scored his first away goal as Kilmarnock saw off St Mirren in a 1-0 win away from home whilst Scott Tiffoney shone in Livingston's 2-0 win over St Johnstone. Dundee United's Lawrence Shankland scored his second goal in two games, a tally that would later be matched by Accies new defensive hitman Hakeem Odoffin as the two sides shared a point each.
Rangers Vs Ross County
This weekend's game will bring only the 12th meeting between these two sides this millennium, with Rangers being utterly dominant win this fixture with 8 wins and 3 draws so far. The first meeting between these sides in the 2000's was an exciting, close 3-2 victory fro Rangers, with a double from Tore Andre Flo and a winner from Barry Ferguson cancelling out a brace from County's Alex Bone.
Rangers bounced back from the draw against Hibs in extremely fine fashion. A midweek 4-0 Europa League success over Willem II was followed up by another emphatic away win, this time 5-1 at Motherwell. 9 goals in two games will have delighted Steven Gerrard as goals from Jordan Jones and Cedric Itten meant that Rangers have had 14 different goalscorers for them so far this season, showing that his side has goals coming from many areas on the park. Rangers have been deadly in front of goal this season, with their home form averaging the Ibrox side scoring three times a game whilst not conceding any. The Rangers team right now looks capable of getting good results regardless of missing players, something that has been tested already with absences from Alfredo Morelos, Joe Aribo and Ryan Jack so far already. With Rangers sealing a spot in the Europa League group stages with an excellent victory over Galatasaray, it looks like it will be another busy schedule for Rangers this season. Steven Gerrard is going to need to rotate a lot this season, requiring his squad players to play a big role in maintaining form this season. Only a few months in but things seem to be going well so far.
Ross County's season has been mixed so far, with 3 wins, 2 draws and 4 losses in the first 9 games of the season. Ross County's main issue last season was the amount of goals they were conceding, giving away an average of two goals a game. With 14 goals conceded already this season, the Staggies really seem to struggle to defend against the teams near the top, highlighted by recent heavy losses to Celtic and Aberdeen. Stuart Kettlewell will be hoping for an improvement soon as his side can't continue to give away so many goals, especially when they've only scored 7. County's forward line are known to have quality that can punish teams but when the Staggies concede even just once, they rarely win with last seasons 2-1 win over Aberdeen is the only instance in 2020 where they have faced a setback and still came away with 3 points. With a trip to Ibrox on Sunday, Staggies fans may be bracing themselves as their side will be in for a tough afternoon, whether they come out victorious or not.
Key Battle: Alfredo Morelos Vs Alex Iacovitti
It could be a very long afternoon on Sunday for Ross County if they have another defensive performance similar to the game against Aberdeen last weekend. As previously mentioned, Rangers are punishing teams well this season and their players are hungry for goals from all areas. Morelos is one of many who will be looking to add a few more goals to their tally, with the likes of Iacovitti needing to be at their very best in order to keep Rangers at bay.
Predicted Result: Rangers 4-0 Ross County
Kilmarnock P-P Motherwell
The past week has seen Kilmarnock be the latest team to be hit by COVID, with up until this post being released had only 6 players being affected. This morning, the news has broke out that the entire playing staff has been advised to self-isolate, meaning Killie's game tonight cannot go ahead as well as their two Betfred Cup fixtures. This is incredibly unfortunate but will not be the last time we see this happening this season. Hopefully, everyone at Kilmarnock can remain safe and healthy and be back on the field soon. With an entire playing staff compromised, there can be no complaints from rival fans for this action being taken, regardless of the situation that St Mirren were in a few weeks ago.
Hibernian Vs Hamilton Academical
2017 would be the last time where Hamilton defeated Hibs, pulling off a shock 3-1 result at Easter Road, with goals coming from Rakish Bingham and Louis Longridge. The result that day was a massive coupon buster and Accies will be hoping for a similar result this weekend as they go into Friday's game as underdogs.
Despite losing 3-0, there were promising signs for Hibs against Celtic, most notably the very impressive performance of Kevin Nisbet. The young forward more than held his own up against Shane Duffy and got the better side of him on several occasions as the 23-year old striker has made the jump up from the Championship with ease. Hibs have been able to bounce back from setbacks so far this season and with a home game and near fully fit squad, they'll look to earn their second home win of the season. Jack Ross doesn't look to be fully satisfied with his squad just yet, looking to Kyle Magennis from St Mirren as the next player to potentially steal from his former club, much to the dismay of Buddies fans. Alex Gogic will be set to face up against his former side for the first time since making the switch to Easter Road. The Cypriot enjoyed 3 years at Accies but will now be using his combative side to stifle Accies as he has cemented his place in the Hibs midfield as Hibs' array of new signings have hit the ground running.
When Accies signed Hakeem Odoffin from Livingston, I don't think many expected the English defender to have such an impact on the club, especially in attacking areas. Odoffin scored his third goal of the season as the former Livi man has been a great threat from set-pieces this season, scoring half of the goals Accies have scored so far this season. Odoffin has also been a valuable addition at the back with the likes of Shaun Want seeming to perform better alongside the new signing. There will still be a worry for Accies fans regarding where else goals will come from this season, with none of Brian Rice's forwards yet to score this season. Accies have only lost 3 of the 5 games this season by more than a single goal, making it clear that the lack of a prolific goalscorer in forward positions in stifling them. With Accies signing defender Ben Stirling from opponents Hibs this weekend, Brian Rice will hope this is another young player that the club can turn into a diamond.
Key Battle: Christian Doidge Vs Shaun Want
Accies are gradually lowering how many goals they concede each season, with the 2020/21 campaign being no different so far. Brian Rice sets his team up to frustrate sides but his team will be in for a tough test against the free-flowing attack of Hibs. Christian Doidge has earned plaudits for his displays this season, notably his unselfish work and bringing others into play. As Accies will look to use a low block and defend heroically, Hibs will look to use Doidge in dangerous areas to create openings for his teammates to exploit and punish.
Predicted Result: Hibernian 2-0 Hamilton Academical
Aberdeen Vs St Mirren
The three league meetings between these two sides last season saw a share of the points, with a win each and a single draw in close affairs. However, the two sides met in the Scottish Cup quarter-finals, with Aberdeen coming out victorious with a 2-0 win to send them to the semi-finals, a game that is still yet to be played.
A 3-0 victory over Ross County got Aberdeen back on track after a poor result against Motherwell last weekend and a valiant losing effort against Sporting in the Europa League. The loss of Scott McKenna will be a big miss for Aberdeen, with fans hoping for investment back into the squad following him becoming the club's record sale. With the Dons current defensive options, it seems like they could do with adding a quality centre back, especially if they plan on continuing with a 3 at the back formation. Derek McInnes may have been forced into using such a formation but it certainly seems to have helped the Dons style of play, with the likes of Scott Wright and Ryan Hedges performing much better in this system. Marley Watkins will also benefit from his first goal for the club, with the forward fitting in well through Sam Cosgrove's continued absence so far this season.
St Mirren's season started off very brightly but that now seems like a long time ago as the Buddies have now gone 6 games without a win, including 5 straight losses. The last 5 games has only seen Jim Goodwin's side score twice, highlighting a key issue for St Mirren right now. The 1-0 home loss against Kilmarnock will be most concerning as St Mirren failed to register a single shot at goal in a home fixture, against a team not overly superior to them. The Buddies defence on their day is more than capable of keeping teams out but they will struggle to stay in the league if they don't fix their fortunes at the other end of the park. Jim Goodwin will need to find a solution fast to stop the rut and try move out of the relegation zones before any of their competitors leave them behind instead.
Key Battle: Ross McCrorie Vs Jamie McGrath
St Mirren this season have relied heavily on getting the likes of Lee Erwin or Jon Obika to hold the ball up to give them breathing space and start attacks. However, the Buddies have struggled to get players up to support these players in time. With Aberdeen operating with 3 centre backs and all action midfielders, it's urgent the likes of McGrath get up and support their forward players. Aberdeen will be well protected at the back, meaning St Mirren run the risk of having their striker completely isolated in this fixture.
Predicted Result: Aberdeen 2-0 St Mirren
Dundee United Vs Livingston
The first meeting between the two sides since their exciting Premiership Play-Off Semi-Final in 2018, where the Lions managed to see off Dundee United 4-3 on aggregate to progress to the final and eventually gain promotion. It would take another two attempts for United to join the West Lothian side in the top flight, with Friday their first chance to exact some revenge.
Lawrence Shankland now has two goals in two games but his presence wasn't enough as United would rue missed chances in their draw with Hamilton. United were solid in attack, with Logan Chalmers and Adrian Sporle causing trouble from wide areas but the Terrors couldn't find the net a second time to put the game out of sight. This would eventually come back to haunt Micky Mellon's side who was humble despite the disappointment and will be looking for his side to be a lot more effective in the future. With the talent at his disposal, particularly Shankland, Mellon and United fans will be confident of more clinical displays. Mark Connolly made his return to the squad at the weekend following his self-isolation period and may rejoin Mark Reynolds in the heart of United's defence this weekend as Micky Mellon looks to have a near fully-fit squad, with Liam Smith the only notable absentee.
It was a big win for Livingston at the weekend as they came out comfortable winners at home to St Johnstone. The use of Scott Tiffoney up top offered something different for Livi who are still testing players out in the striker position and the arrival of Jay Emmanuel-Thomas looks certain for that to continue. With Emmanuel-Thomas only joining on Wednesday and not playing recently, it looks likely Tiffoney will hold onto his spot in the team and deservedly so, following his goal and assist against the Saints. Livi will be looking for similar effectiveness this Friday night, looking to use pace and intelligent movement to exploit the United defence and hopefully earn some reward. Livi are without an away win since the 25th of January, something that has plagued the Lions since their promotion in 2018. Scott Robinson and Scott Pittman are likely to both start against United on Friday, both playing key parts in Livi's Play-Off semi-final win, with the latter scoring an iconic goal for Livingston fans.
Key Battle: Adrian Sporle Vs Nicky Devlin
Sporle was a nuisance against Hamilton, posing a threat going forward from the left-hand side. Livi have had issues dealing with incoming crosses out wide this season already and with the threat of Shankland in front of goal, they'll need to cut off the supply from the source. This dynamic also goes in reverse, as Devlin will surely look to go forward and use his pace to cause issues for United, much like he did against St Johnstone. Sporle will need to be fully aware in order to stop the former Ayr man getting into dangerous positions and possibly harming the home side.
Predicted Result: Dundee United 2-1 Livingston
St Johnstone Vs Celtic
The Saints had a tough time against Celtic last season, with two league meetings ending in 7-0 and 3-0 hammerings, with a 1-0 Scottish Cup defeat rubbing extra salt in the wounds. With the team's differences in form so far this season, Saints fans may find themselves bracing for another heavy defeat.
It's now 3 games without a goal and only one goal scored in their last 6 for St Johnstone this season as the Saints are suffering from a lack of goals this season. St Johnstone now sit second bottom, despite not being overly poor but based on the fact that they can't find the back of the net. Callum Davidson's side are the lowest scorers in the league this season which has cost them dearly, especially as four of the games they have lost have been through the scoreline 1-0. The likes of Callum Hendry and Stevie May will be feeling the pressure building as the expectancy will fall on them as the duo only have one goal between them this season. The performance against Livingston will be concerning as the Saints didn't seem to be fully switched on in midfield, leaving their defence to be exposed on a few occasions that ended up punishing them. As they welcome Celtic, this will be something they'll need to patch up fast. St Johnstone will be with Craig Bryson for the first time this season as Callum Booth also returns from injury leaving Chris Kane the only doubt for Sunday's game.
Celtic successfully qualified for the Europa League group stages and will sit in Pot 1 due to a number of results seeing some big teams eliminated from the competition. Odsonne Edouard was the hero yet again for Celtic with his goal the difference against Sarajevo as the Frenchman stepped up to the plate yet again. Edouard will undoubtedly have a number of admirers as the transfer window draws closer to shutting, with Celtic needing to keep a hold of their star player. With another tough test midweek, rotation can be expected from Celtic, with Nir Bitton set to miss out through injury. Olivier Ntcham made a late appearance off the bench whilst David Turnbull missed out entirely, with Celtic fans hoping the duo can play a part this coming Sunday. With Christopher Jullien and Leigh Griffiths returning to the bench, Neil Lennon has plenty of options of the bench, even with the absences of James Forrest and new hitman Albian Ajeti. Celtic's record against St Johnstone in recent seasons has been incredible, with the Hoops not conceding against the Perth side in 951 minutes of football, stretching to over 10 games of football. With Saints current goalscoring record, you would back Celtic to keep this run up, a run that has seen Celtic score 32 in return.
Key Battle: Ali McCann Vs Callum McGregor
It's going to be a real tough game for Callum Davidson's side as they are coming into this game with very little to be optimistic about. The Saints defence was left isolated on a few occasions against Livingston that saw them rightfully punished. It's unlikely that St Johnstone will be as expansive with their midfielders likely to sit much deeper than they did against the West Lothian side as Celtic will control the game. McGregor has found great joy by popping up in dangerous positions and getting goals for himself. The likes of Ali McCann have a big job on their hands to try frustrate Celtic's key players and track their movements as they are set for 90 minutes with their backs to the wall.
Predicted Result: St Johnstone 0-3 Celtic