With four games left before the Scottish Premiership divides, a portion of teams will be fighting it out for places in the top six and for survival in the top flight lower down the league. In its history, the split generally hasn’t had much of an impact on the destination of the title but it has thrown up one or two decent season finales.
Last season was the tightest it has been in years when Celtic won by a margin of 9 points. You have to go back to 2010 when Rangers pipped Celtic to the title by a single point before going into liquidation the following year.
In between those seasons, Celtic have won the other six titles by an average of 19.5 points. The largest margin in that period being the 30 point gap amassed during their invincible season of 2016-2017.
At the moment, there are currently 8 points between Celtic and Rangers. Aberdeen are 7 points behind Rangers in 3rd place and it looks as though the Derek McInnes might have to concede 2nd place for the first time in four seasons unless things continue to go their way against Steven Gerrard’s side, who are now said to be concentrating on the league.
Steve Clarke’s Kilmarnock are just 1 point behind the Don’s in 4th place so there is a bit of a battle going on there. It’s also worth noting that Hearts are only 3 points behind in 5th place and could quite easily find themselves in a three-way battle for 3rd position.
Celtic don’t play until Sunday when they travel to Dundee. The rest of the Premiership games take place this afternoon.
Rangers host Kilmarnock, Aberdeen host Livingston and Hearts are away to Hamilton so those margins could look very different depending on today’s results. The most interesting match this afternoon will be at Ibrox.
Kilmarnock were battered 5-0 at Ibrox in the Scottish Cup last month. They conceded an early goal in that game, but their challenge became near impossible when they went down to 10 men in the 25th minute.
They conceded one mroe goal before half-time and a further three in the second half. It was also the game where Steve Clarke spoke out about this sectarian abuse he recevied as he stood on the touch line.
What is worth pointing out, if it needs to be, is that under Steve Clarke, Kilmarnock have done very well against Rangers. In fact, the only time he has lost was that cup replay, having drew 0-0 at Rugby Park.
Clarke’s league record at Ibrox is P3 W1 D2 L0. At home against Rangers in the league it’s P2 W2 D0 L0.
Is there a chance he could put the brakes on Gerrard’s crew today? I don’t see why not, especially after the manner of the last game.
I expect Aberdeen to win today and if they do, they might even be closing the gap on Rangers. Although the Scottish Cup is their only chance of silverware, they won’t want to give up 2nd place easily.
What of the rest of the league though? I haven’t discussed Hibs who are currently in 6th place, just 5 points behind Hearts.
Personally, I don’t think they’ll catch their Edinburgh rivals now. They have a good chance of staying in the top six though.
Motherwell are 2 points behind the Leith side in 7th position, St Johnstone have slipped down to 8th, also 2 points behind, and Livingston are 1 point behind them in 9th place. That leaves the bottom three clubs who are battling for survival.
By the looks of it Hamilton (21 pts), Dundee (18 pts) and St Mirren (17 pts) will be slugging it out. They are in the drop zone whilst the rest of the league remain safe.
After this weekend it’s the international break. Good for some, not so good for others.
Under new management, this could actually be good timing for Celtic. Neil Lennon spoke about injuries recently and is beginning to see players return to action including Olivier Ntcham, Callum McGregor, Filip Benkovic and Tom Rogic.
He also has players such as Vakoun Bayo, Armstrong Okoflex and Karamoko Dembele to call upon before the end of the season, should he wish to. By the time the international break has passed Celtic should be largely full fit with the exception of a few.
That is good news considering when they do return, it will be at Celtic Park against Rangers. That result will go a long way to shutting the door on the Ibrox club if it hasn’t been already.
After that, Neil Lennon has Livingston and St Mirren to play before the league splits. By that time, I am predicting a greater gap than the current one.
Kilmarnock might aid that by taking some points at Ibrox today. Then it’s down to us, Hearts and Motherwell after the break.
All eyes on Ibrox. Over to you Mr Clarke.