Scottish Premiership Matchweek 12 Preview
Following an important weekend in the league last season, Matchweek 12 offers many teams to make amends for poor results whilst others look to continue on good fortunes. Rangers were utterly dominant in their 2-0 away win over Celtic and will now look to continue their good form at home to Livingston. The Lions suffered from horrendous luck last week as a resilient Kilmarnock side came away from West Lothian with a 3-1 victory despite their COVID issues. St Johnstone hit Hamilton for 5 in an 8 goal thriller, as a couple of great goalkeeping performances gave Dundee United and Ross County scoreless draws against Aberdeen and Hibs. And the postponement of Motherwell and St Mirren meant the Scottish Premiership has now gone two weeks without a full match card fulfilled due to COVID. There was action during the week as Aberdeen soared to a 4-2 victory over Hamilton, whilst Rangers defeated Standard Liege 2-0 and Celtic lost 3-1 to AC Milan in the Europa League.
Rangers Vs Livingston
The first meeting between the two sides this season led to Rangers dropping their first points of the season in a 0-0 draw at the Tony Macaroni Arena. The game was far from a classic as Livi looked to get back to being solid at the back following some poor showings and managed to frustrate Steven Gerrard's side, with a Borna Barisic free-kick that was superbly saved by Max Stryjek the highlight of an uneventful game.
The Old Firm game was heavily one-sided in Rangers favour as Steven Gerrard's side were fantastic in their 2-0 victory over Celtic last weekend. Rangers were incredibly solid throughout the entire game and thoroughly deserved the victory and sent out a message to their city rivals. But to many, the real test for this Rangers side is how they go on from here. In recent seasons, they've followed up impressive Old Firm victories with shock results against weaker opposition. The difference between Celtic and Rangers last season appeared to be from Rangers dropping a lot more silly points, most notably losses against Hearts and Hamilton. This weekend will bring the first test of how much character this Rangers side has and Steven Gerrard will be urging his side to remain focussed on each and every single game in what is a massive season for the club. So far this season, Rangers have been very professional on league duty, with a great stat from @Jas72Boyd on Twitter showing that Rangers have only given away 14 shots on their goal this season, with 4 of the opposing 11 teams failing to register a single shot on goal. This shows how solid Rangers have been this season, with their incredible work rate limiting their opponents to few chances. Rangers were in Europa League action against Standard Liege, with a penalty from James Tavernier and a wonder goal from Kemar Roofe securing the away 2-0 victory. It wasn't to be a perfect night for Rangers as left-back Borna Barisic left the field with an injury, making him unlikely to feature this weekend.
The opposite of their opponents this weekend, everything that could've gone wrong last weekend for Livi did seem to do so. An unlucky rebound brought Killie level before an extremely dodgy penalty was awarded and then a fumble from Robby McCrorie put the game out of sight. The recent Scotland call up has been on the receiving end of some criticism for his performances this season with a few errors this campaign. McCrorie will be unable to play this weekend against his parent club which will give Polish keeper Max Stryjek his second league start, with the 24-year old hoping to take his chance in the starting XI. Another strong showing from the former Sunderland youth player would give Gary Holt a real headache going forward but it will certainly be a tough test fro Stryjek and co this weekend. Holt will also be toying with whether he should start with Scott Tiffoney or Jay Emmanuel-Thomas upfront at Ibrox. The two are very different players and Holt's selection will be based off how he intends to play, with Tiffoney liking to stretch the game and use his pace to get in behind defences whilst Emmanuel-Thomas would provide much more of a target man threat. Either way, it'll be up to Livi's midfield to push forward when these players get into good positions as they look to capitalise on any potential counter-attacks. Mistakes will need to be minimal for the Lions should they look to come away with anything this weekend, something that has cost the Lions dearly on multiple occasions this season already.
Key Battle: Steven Davis Vs Scott Pittman
Steven Davis was rested in the Europa League following the Northern Irish midfielder playing the full 90 against Celtic. Now aged 35, Steven Gerrard will need to be careful with Davis during this heavy schedule which may see him rested every now and then, especially when there is two games a week. Davis will likely come back into the squad this weekend and look to control the game against an energetic Livingston side. Scott Pittman got his second goal of the season and looks to be a threat going forward yet again for the Lions but his attacking output will be limited this weekend. Pittman will instead have to put in a shift and be a nuisance for Rangers' ballplayers and try put as much pressure on the likes of Davis as possible. Pittman has quite the engine and will need to do a lot of running as Rangers look to knock the ball about with the much better share of the possession.
Predicted Result: Rangers 3-0 Livingston
St Mirren Vs Hamilton Academical
A Jon Obika goal was the difference between the two sides last time out in August as St Mirren came away with the three points. Since then, the Buddies have been unable to kick on, not winning a game since this fixture as they sit second bottom. Accies currently sit in last place via goal difference with a recent haemorrhage of goals costing Brian Rice's side heavily.
St Mirren were out of action last weekend as they fell victim to COVID testing yet again, forcing a last-minute call off against Motherwell. With postponements and the Betfred Cup, St Mirren's last league game was on the 2nd of October, a losing effort away to Aberdeen. As mentioned previously, St Mirren haven't won since the last game against Accies, back on the 15th of August and have only picked up a single point in the 7 games since then. A decent and hopeful start to the season now seems long gone but the next run of fixtures looks much more hopeful for Jim Goodwin's side, as they only face one of the top 5 in their next 6 games. Goodwin's side have shown they can be solid at the back and as players return from suspension, the former Alloa manager will be hopeful of getting his favoured backline playing together again which should help better their results. Unfortunately, it may be a bit longer of a wait for Goodwin as the Buddies have had yet another four positive cases, putting this weekend's game in jeopardy again. It really is rotten luck for the Paisley side who have been affected by this so much already this season.
The pressure continues to build around Brian Rice as it is three losses in a row for Accies, conceding an abysmal 12 goals in those matches. Hamilton are starting games in shocking fashion, with them conceding the majority of the goals all within the first half including all four from Aberdeen on Tuesday. Accies have improved going forward in these games, albeit possibly through teams complacency, but it says a lot about a team when they are scoring two or three goals a game and have no points to show for it. It has been a very unconvincing period for Accies lately as they now have conceded 5 more goals than at this stage last season, showing their defensive issues look to be getting worse. This weekend, Accies face the league's lowest scorers so if there's ever a chance for Rice to patch things up, it is this weekend. In saying this, St Johnstone were also the league's lowest scorers prior to playing Accies but are now the league's 8th highest goalscorers following their game last weekend. Accies will be without David Templeton and Kyle Munro until next year, with the wingers both missing out midweek and set to miss out for at least 3 months each now.
Key Battle: Jon Obika Vs Hakeem Odoffin
As recently shown, Accies are conceding far too many goals in recent weeks that has cost them in recent weeks. If St Mirren can capitalise on this like many have in the past few weeks, they will surely come away with the three points safe in hand. The Buddies haven't been great in front of goals themselves but they will be fancying themselves against a team who have conceded 2.3 goals per game this season. Jon Obika is the Buddies top scorer this season with two goals but hasn't scored since the 1-1 draw with Ross County on the 22nd of August with the Buddies suffering from a lack of goals recently.
Predicted Result: St Mirren 1-0 Hamilton Academical
Motherwell Vs Ross County
The first Monday night game of the 2020/21 season featured Ross County hosting Motherwell on the opening day of the season. A Ross Stewart penalty secured the win for the Staggies as Callum Lang introduced himself to the Motherwell support with a red card 16 minutes into his debut whilst Liam Donnelly missed a penalty to equalise for the Fir Park side.
Motherwell last played in any competition on the 27th of September, meaning they have almost gone a month without fulfilling a fixture. Stephen Robinson's side have fallen victim to games being called off due to Kilmarnock and St Mirren having to obey by COVID procedures following positive tests and the Well's stint in the Europa League excludes them from the Betfred Cup group stages. The likes of Declan Gallagher, Stephen O'Donnell and Allan Campbell will have been kept busy through Internationals but there may be concerns of a lack of match sharpness for a number of Motherwell players. Stephen Robinson is still trying to get his side up to speed and a recent stop-start feel will not have helped things at all, with Motherwell still sitting near the bottom of the table. His side will be looking for revenge this weekend against Ross County following the opening day of the season as they look to pick up their second home win of the season.
There was a debut in goal for Ross Doohan at the weekend as the Celtic loanee managed to keep a clean sheet against Hibernian with 10 men. Connor Randall's straight red card means he will miss out on this game meaning Stuart Kettlewell may be forced to bring Carl Tremarco back into the starting XI, with the injury of Josh Reid not helping matters in the County backline. Ross County have been a strange team so far this season, with inconsistency being their main issue this season, in both attack and defence. Whenever the Staggies score, they usually don't lose, only happening on one occasion so far this season in the 6 games they have scored in. Currently sitting in 7th place, if County can get their forwards scoring more often, they could find themselves looking more like top 6 contenders rather than fighting relegation due to teams inconsistency at the start of the season. With four clean sheets so far this season, Stuart Kettlewell's side will need to build upon this defensive shut out if they look to maintain their position in the table, with a decent run of fixtures looking set to test where County will stand this season.
Key Battle: Stephen O'Donnell Vs Ross Stewart
Ross Stewart caused Motherwell a number of problems on the opening day of the season, scoring and hitting the woodwork in an impressive performance. Stewart was deployed on the left-wing and gave Liam Grimshaw a very tough evening but will find himself up against Scotland international Stephen O'Donnell this weekend. O'Donnell will be on a high following his spell in the Scotland team and will be raring to go again on club duty, with Ross Stewart likely to provide a suitable challenge.
Predicted Result: Motherwell 2-1 Ross County
St Johnstone Vs Dundee United
Dundee United's return to the Premiership started with a 1-1 draw with St Johnstone, with a Liam Craig volley cancelling out an early penalty from Nicky Clark. United were unable to capitalise on Michael O'Halloran's first-half red card as the two sides shared the points in Dundee.
It seems as if St Johnstone took what everyone was saying about their goalscoring record to heart last weekend, retaliating with a stunning 5-3 victory away to Hamilton. Including the Betfred Cup, it is now 12 goals in the last three games for the Saints, something that will undoubtedly have boosted the confidence of Callum Davidson's team. Braces for Stevie May and Craig Conway alongside one from David Wotherspoon boosted St Johnstone's league scoring tally from 4 to 9, more than doubling the Perth sides goal efforts in a single game. It was a first league win since August for St Johnstone who moved up to 9th place but the question will be whether or not they can build upon this win. Despite scoring 5, they still conceded 3 against Accies and as they face Dundee United, they'll be up against a much better attack with threats such as Marc McNulty and Lawrence Shankland. The Saints have only picked up 3 points at home this season, losing 4 out of 5 home games so far this campaign. With that kind of home form, it is no surprise to see them sitting towards the rear of the table, although a run of three home league games in a row will give St Johnstone a chance to patch that up a fair bit.
A great display from Benjamin Siegrist secured a point for Dundee United against Aberdeen at home, giving United their first clean sheet since the 8th of August. It seems as if we are still unsure as to what to expect from Dundee United this season, as they started off well, picking up 7 of their 12 points in the opening month of the season. Since then, good form has been hard to come by for Micky Mellon's side, with a couple of poor recent weeks seeing poor losses at home to Livingston and Peterhead. The result against Aberdeen, though, is a step in the right direction as they managed to show resiliency as they clung onto a draw last weekend. United need a lot more from their midfield still, as on several occasions they allowed runners from Aberdeen to pose problems far too often, something similar to the game against Livingston. This time United were not punished, mainly thanks to Siegrist but it will be very concerning for the Terrors fans. The United midfield aren't doing much to help in attacking phases either, limiting their dangermen to few touches near their opponent's goal. United do currently sit in the top 6 due to their good start to the season but sit 8th in the current form table, meaning they'll have to sharpen up and be wary of the teams around them who look to capitalise on their inconsistency just now.
Key Battle: Murray Davidson Vs Ian Harkes
United's midfield doesn't seem to cope very well in a physical battle and they will surely be in for another tough battle up against Liam Craig and Murray Davidson. St Johnstone could gain a real advantage in this tie, up against what has looked like a fairly lightweight midfield in recent weeks. This would also help stifle United going forward who mainly threatened Aberdeen through counter-attacks last weekend. It might not be the prettiest of displays from United but they'll need a fully committed effort from the likes of Harkes in order for them to come out victorious this weekend.
Predicted Result: St Johnstone 1-1 Dundee United
Kilmarnock Vs Hibernian
Martin Boyle got Hibs' season off to a great start with a double on the opening day of the season where Hibs have not looked back since. Chris Burke was also on the scoresheet, with a thunderous free-kick getting the veteran winger off the mark in a season where he is an early Player of the Year candidate.
Kilmarnock rode their luck a bit last weekend but no credit can be taken away from Alex Dyer's side. Following a setback due to COVID, Kilmarnock came back with only a few days training and competed admirably in West Lothian, coming away with a 3-1 win despite going 1-0 down early on. Dyer's side showed great character to come back the way they did, with Chris Burke continuing his great form for the Ayrshire side. The win will give Killie great confidence going forward as they now sit in 5th place, now winning 4 of their last 5 games. Killie are looking more like their usual selves, with a solid spine allowing the forward-thinking creative players to get on the ball and cause team's damage. Sitting two points above the bottom 6, Killie will be looking to maintain their good form and solidify their place in the top 6 whilst the teams below them continue to struggle for consistency. It looks set to be a tough run of games for Killie as they now have tough fixtures to Hibs and Rangers, albeit on the dreaded home astroturf.
Hibs will be kicking themselves that they weren't able to find the net against 10 man Ross County last weekend as they succumbed to a scoreless draw. It just didn't seem to be Hibs' day as they went close through Kyle Magennis hitting the post with a curled effort, Kevin Nisbet's effort being cleared off the line and Martin Boyle narrowly hitting wide. It was an unlucky outing for the Leith side who would've hit 3 or 4 on another day and will lead to the Hibs forward players looking to make amends this coming weekend. Kevin Nisbet, Christian Doidge and Martin Boyle have scored 12 goals between them this season, the same amount the entire Hibs squad had managed by this stage last season as the guidance of Jack Ross in his first full season looks to be making a big difference to the club. Hibs have also conceded 12 fewer goals than they did at this stage last season as Hibs have improved all over the park, with some key signings helping boost the Hibees in defensive areas.
Key Battle: Calum Waters Vs Martin Boyle
Boyle caused Killie a host of problems last time out but has now gone 7 games in all competitions without a goal. He went agonisingly close against Ross County but put his shot just wide of the goal. The Australian international's pace will cause most teams trouble and provides a good outlet for Hibs under pressure as not many will beat him in a foot race. Waters had a good afternoon last weekend dealing with Livi's attacking presences out wide with the help of Chris Burke and will need to be on top form again to handle Boyle.
Predicted Result: Kilmarnock 1-1 Hibernian
Aberdeen Vs Celtic
These two sides are yet to play one another this season as the initial game was called off due to COVID. Aberdeen and Celtic are going to get to know each other a lot better very soon, with Sunday's game the first of two encounters between the two clubs in the space of a week.
Aberdeen are another side who will be disappointed to have not came away with three points last weekend, as they were held to a 0-0 draw away to Dundee United. Aberdeen had the better share of the possession and the chances but were unable to find the net. The Dons responded in fiery fashion as they went 4-0 up against Hamilton in the first half n hour on Tuesday night, with Ryan Edmondson netting his first two goals in professional football. Lewis Ferguson caught most of the headlines in the 4-2 victory with a thunderous strike that put him joint top in the league goalscoring chart. Ferguson alongside Ross McCrorie have formed a great partnership in the middle of the park, with high energy performances allowing Derek McInnes' new system to be a success. McInnes will have seen how Celtic's midfield were anonymous against Rangers and will be confident that is side can get in about the likes of Brown and McGregor. It is incredibly important for Aberdeen to go at it from the start should they hope to get anything from this game. It has been 9 games since Aberdeen last beat Celtic, with 8 losses in that spell where Aberdeen have been disappointing on a number of occasions. With a new system and look, it'll be interesting to see if Aberdeen have made the necessary changes in order to compete with the Champions.
It's been a rough week for Celtic fans as the misery from last weekend has continued through to Europa League action. Celtic were absolutely shocking against Rangers and were so in the first half against AC Milan on Thursday night, with the 9-in a row champions looking a shadow of their past selves. It was a better second half for Celtic as Neil Lennon switched to a system that he actually had players to fit in, something that must have been frustrating the life out of Celtic fans. Celtic actually looked threatening in the second half, with much better performances from Laxalt and Ntcham combining well with good cameos from Elyounoussi and Rogic from off the bench. The pressure is truly on this Celtic side and the fact it doesn't seem as if Neil Lennon has a settled squad just now may be worrying for the Hoops fans. In all fairness, in recent seasons Celtic have bounced back from adversity and have come out victorious in the end, although this will be their toughest challenge in recent years by far. Celtic can't afford any more slip-ups as their fans will be on them and the pressure will continue to grow which makes it necessary for the experienced heads to step up. Celtic have had Aberdeen's number for a long time now but will need to improve massively from their last two outings should they want to avoid a poor result away from home. Celtic have scored 13 in their last 4 visits to Pittodrie as Celtic have proven to be too strong up in the Granite City recently.
Key Battle: Marley Watkins Vs Shane Duffy
It has been a week to forget for Shane Duffy but the cracks seemed to be appearing regarding Celtic's defence. Celtic hadn't lost points due to it just yet but it would have been concerning to see how opposing teams were getting at their new defender in recent weeks. The last two results have highlighted Celtic's problems at the back and will give teams the confidence to get something against Celtic this season. Despite only scoring twice so far this season, Marley Watkins has been a solid signing for Aberdeen, filling the gap left by Sam Cosgrove very well with high energy performances. Watkins will look to continue his good form by dragging defenders out of position and making room for the likes of Ryan Hedges and Scott Wright, whilst also posing a threat in front of goal himself.
Predicted Result: Aberdeen 0-2 Celtic