By Rory West
As the festive season approaches, fixture congestion enters the minds of managers and coaches of teams. This weekend is one of the final weekends before the pile up kicks in, here is a preview to the Scottish Premiership action.
Partick Thistle vs Celtic
The Celtic train keeps on rolling through Scottish football and this week’s stop is Firhill, where Brendan Rodgers’ side look to make it eight wins on the spin and extend their lead at the top of the league.
Off the back of a well earned draw at the Etihad stadium against Manchester City on Tuesday night, Celtic will still be on a a high despite that result confirming their exit from European Football.
This will be the first meeting of the sides this season due to Celtic’s postponement of the first fixture due to a friendly with Inter Milan.
Alan Archibald’s side will be hoping for a positive result to drag them away from the relegation dogfight that they – and almost the whole of the bottom six – find themselves in. Currently level on points with bottom club Inverness a defeat will see them left in a lot of trouble.
I can’t see anything other than a Celtic win for this one, I’m going for 2-0 to Celtic.
Aberdeen vs St Johnstone
Going by last season’s encounters this one should be a thriller, however this season’s matches have been drab affairs with only the one goal so far in the league and cup matches, and that came in the 90th minute through Adam Rooney in the League Cup quarter final.
Tommy Wright has had Derek McInnes’ number over the past few years making St Johnstone the Dons’ bogey team. Traditionally hard to beat, the league opening 0-0 draw between the sides proved that.
Both sides come into this one off resounding victories but there is still pressure on Aberdeen to prove they’re the second best side in Scotland after two dismal trips to Glasgow.
It’s difficult to tell which way this one will go but I’m going for an Aberdeen win but a very tight one, 2-1 to Aberdeen.
Dundee vs Ross County
The unpredictability of the bottom six this year has proved to make the survival from relegation an exciting one.
With Dundee sitting tenth and County on seventh, a win for either side can see them jump into the top six, if results go their way.
The two sides met on the opening day of the season where Dundee picked up a 3-1 victory and looked set to push on from last season’s disappointing bottom six finish. However that hasn’t seen fruition and they’ve been left in the dwells of the relegation dogfight.
County have seen a similar fate, failing to eclipse last season’s heroics but this time of the year can change a season with so many points to be won.
This one again won’t be open however I can see Ross County snatching this one with possibly a reverse scoreline, 3-1 to County.
Inverness vs Hamilton
That’s all that can be said about this one. Accies are the league’s serial draw artists, the season’s previous encounter obviously ended in a 1-1 draw.
Inverness need a win in this one though, rooted to the bottom of the league, they need to find their form sooner rather than later or else teams will (you’d imagine anyway) begin to drift away from them. Hamilton are probably ideal opponents for them as they have really struggled to pick up victories.
This one’s a draw though, it’s got to be, surely! 1-1
Motherwell vs Kilmarnock
Motherwell can go into this one with confidence after putting up the best fight anyone in the league has this season against Celtic, albeit in defeat. Killie on the other hand looked to have turned the corner at the weekend with a win over Dundee, however being typical Killie they went and proved form doesn’t exist in their case and got whacked 5-1 by Aberdeen at Pittodrie.
The sides’ earlier encounter finished 2-1 to Motherwell and personally I can see a similar result. Killie somehow find themselves in the top six however going back to the bottom six rabble, Motherwell can leapfrog Killie with a victory.
Killie’s inconsistency has been their downfall this season and I can’t see them regaining form in this one. One tip for them however is to keep of Motherwell’s goal mouth in the warm up or Mark McGhee will go rage.
Rangers vs Hearts
The game of the weekend. Two massive games in a week for Rangers but they’ve already managed to win one of them against Aberdeen, another win here will back up their credentials for second place.
Hearts will take confidence from the battering they gave Rangers in the Tynecastle encounter – where they won 2-0 – although due to the size of the Ibrox pitch they won’t be able to play the same with the same intensity in their pressing.
Obviously this is Ian Cathro’s first game in charge so it will be interesting to see whether he’s managed to implement his philosophies into this side within a week or will he stick to what his current group of players know and try to get a result that way.
This one could easily be a classic and I can see one brewing, I’m going for a 2-2 draw.
For those of you who love a bash at the bookies here’s my tips for this weekend’s whole round of SPFL fixtures.
Rangers vs Hearts – Both teams to score
Inverness vs Accies – Draw
Ayr vs Dundee United – Dundee United
Falkirk vs Queen of the South – Falkirk
£10 on that will get you roughly £170-180 back depending on which bookmaker you choose to play with. Remember don’t trust me on this one it’s not my fault if you lose.