Scottish Premiership Preview: Matchday 34

As six of the twelve premiership clubs start looking towards next season and try to attain their final goals while also introducing some young players to their teams, six other teams are clawing for their lives at the foot of the table. Ten points separate seventh from twelfth with Inverness starting to fall away slightly but Kilmarnock, who sit top of the bottom six, are still just five points above the relegation play-off spot. With plenty still to play for, let’s have a look at the weekend’s fixtures.


INVERNESS VS. ROSS COUNTY: 

FRIDAY 19:45

One of just two bottom half games selected for TV broadcast as yet, the Friday night Highland Derby kicks the weekend off for the Premiership. Inverness sit precariously in bottom spot, five points adrift while County are three points above eleventh place after their controversial draw with Celtic which saw them gain an unexpected and potentially vital point. The Staggies are unbeaten in their last three matches having scored in every game they’ve played since February. On top of that, Inverness haven’t won a game for two months, haven’t kept a clean sheet since January and have conceded seven in their last two matches. 

Despite their poor form, Caley Thistle must win this game as they have to build a bit of a from somewhere and what better way than with derby win? On the other hand, a victory for County would move them eleven points clear of their rivals and surely bury fears of automatic relegation. Also, if results go their way, they could move six points away from eleventh. 

KEY MEN:

ROSS COUNTY – LIAM BOYCE

Liam Boyce kept a cool head to slot home a penalty in the dying minutes of the Celtic game and the Staggies will need him to be on goal-scoring form in their post-split matches.

INVERNESS CT – BILLY MCKAY

The standout player in the Caley team when it comes to scoring, Richie Foran will be looking to him in the final few games of the season for goals.

PREDICTION: 

ROSS COUNTY 2-0 INVERNESS


RANGERS VS. CELTIC

SATURDAY 12:00

As a game played for league points, it’s fairly meaningless but for the majority of Scotland’s football fanbase, it’s the biggest fixture of the year. Possibly not as big as last weekend’s cup semi-final but important nonetheless. With Celtic having wrapped up the title and beaten Rangers in the aforementioned semi-final, this clash represents The Gers’ last chance to rain on the champions’ parade, if only a little. With Celtic five games away from a historic unbeaten season, a Rangers win would end that and surely put some gloss on what has been a generally disappointing season for them. 

In Pedro Caixinha’s first Old Firm match at Ibrox, it will be interesting to see how he changes his tactics from his unsuccessful attempt to fell the Hoops last Sunday.

KEY MEN:

RANGERS – KENNY MILLER

An Old Firm veteran, the Gers will need his experience and goal threat if they are to get anything here whether he starts or comes off the bench.

CELTIC – SCOTT BROWN

The Celtic captain can play tomorrow after his red card, which he picked up during the Ross County match two weeks ago, was rescinded. He dictated the game’s pace last Sunday and might just have the same effect on this game.

PREDICTION:

RANGERS 1-3 CELTIC


ABERDEEN VS. ST. JOHNSTONE

SATURDAY 15:00

After booking their place in the Scottish Cup final with victory over Hibs on Saturday, the Dons return to league action as they look to consolidate their second position. They sit nine points clear of Rangers currently and if the Gers lose and Aberdeen win, second place will be all but sealed due to a massively superior goal difference.

On the other hand, St. Johnstone are looking to hold onto fourth place and a European spot. With Hearts in poor form, the Saints will fancy their chances of getting over the line, however, a trip to Pittodrie will prove a difficult challenge for Tommy Wright’s men who have just been hit with the news that the creative Danny Swanson is Hibernian-bound in the summer. 

KEY MEN:

ABERDEEN – GRAEME SHINNIE

The Dons’ versatile vice-captain is often instrumental in setting the tone of Aberdeen games and will have an important job against the Perth side.

ST. JOHNSTONE – ALAN MANNUS

The Saints’ goalie is likely to be in a lot of action at Pittodrie and will need to be on top form to keep the opposition at bay.

PREDICTION: 

ABERDEEN 2-1 ST. JOHNSTONE


HEARTS VS. PARTICK THISTLE

SATURDAY 15:00

The battle for fifth has reached fever pitch. After securing a top six place, fifth is the only real target that Partick Thistle have but sitting just four points behind the Jambos, it’s still reachable.

Hearts are looking to make it three games in a row, without defeat, for the first time since February but it won’t come easily. The Edinburgh side haven’t beaten a fellow top six side since the 1st of February. 

In the sides’ last meeting, Thistle ran out 2-0 winners thanks to goals from Kris Doolan and Liam Lindsay. The other two clashes this season have been close affairs. A late Tony Watt goal was the differentiating factor at Firhill early in the season and when the Jags travelled to Tynecastle in December, a spirited second half performance left them disappointed with just a point being taken.

KEY MEN:

HEARTS – JAMIE WALKER

Hearts’ top goalscorer is a key component of Ian Cathro’s team and the Jambos need Jamie Walker’s movement and dribbling to offer an effective attacking threat.

PARTICK THISTLE – ADAM BARTON

The midfield maestro put in a sub-par performance at Ibrox in Thistle’s last game but can be so influential with his calm and calculated use of the ball from the middle of the park.

PREDICTION: 

HEARTS 2-2 PARTICK THISTLE


HAMILTON VS. KILMARNOCK

SATURDAY 15:00

Kilmarnock went into the split as the seventh place side and will be looking to maintain the distance between them and eleventh with victory against Accies. 

Killie have lost just once in their last seven away games and that loss took place at Celtic Park so they are more than capable of picking up points on the road. On the other hand, Hamilton are unbeaten in their last four and coming off the back of an important 2-0 win at Dens Park. 

In this fixture so far this season it’s been one win each and a draw. This match will be the third meeting at New Douglas Park this campaign but Killie have actually fared better at NDP. Their win was away from home and the Accies win was at Rugby Park.

KEY MEN:

HAMILTON ACCIES – MICHAEL DEVLIN

The Accies captain scored a crucial second goal at Dens Park last time out but Hamilton will need his defensive qualities in the last few games of the season.

KILMARNOCK – KRIS BOYD

Killie have scored just three goals in their last five games so will need the veteran striker to step up if they are to avoid being dragged into a relegation dogfight.

PREDICTION:

HAMILTON 1-1 KILMARNOCK


MOTHERWELL VS. DUNDEE

SATURDAY 15:00

Neil McMann’s first match as Dundee boss should be an interesting one. It’s unclear whether he will try to completely  divert from Paul Hartley’s tactics or if he will just try to inject some belief into a side that has been devoid of such a feeling in recent weeks.

On the Motherwell side, a win would put them five points clear of the Dark Blues and ten points above Caley Thistle in bottom spot. 

Dundee’s last win came against the ‘Well in the 5-1 win that rounded off a Manager of the Month award winning February for Paul Hartley and put Dundee into sixth. Oh, how things have changed.

KEY MEN: 

MOTHERWELL – LOUIS MOULT

The attacker’s return to the side last time out coincided with a four goal haul for his side. It’s clear that he is the most dangerous attacking threat in Stephen Robinson’s team and his goals could prove the difference.

DUNDEE – SCOTT BAIN

With Scott McDonald, Louis Moult and Lionel Ainsworth all available, Bain should expect to see a lot of the action happening in front him in this match.

PREDICTION:

MOTHERWELL 2-0 DUNDEE

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