Despite Celtic’s slow and sluggish start to the season, they appeared to be getting into their stride just as the international break approached. Hibs have been in good form since the season kicked off, but they are only one point ahead of Celtic right now.
With Hearts still topping the table, and at home to Aberdeen who are languishing in 7th place, they have a chance to increase their lead. However, if results went against both Edinburgh clubs, Celtic could claim top spot on goal difference.
Kilmarnock are also in this fight and on the same points as Celtic. They are away to St Mirren and will be motivated against the Paisley club who have so far managed just one win and one draw from eight games.
A point below the Ayrshire club are Livingston who are at home to Dundee. The Lothian club have also started off brightly and a victory over the bottom side, who just sacked manager Neil McCann, would keep them in with the top half of the league.
On Sunday, Rangers are away to Hamilton and will be battling to stay with that group as well. Steven Gerrard’s side are sixth in the league, but only five points off the top spot over all.
If things go their way, they will remain ahead of Aberdeen regardless of the result at Tynecastle. So far, the season has not been dull nor does it look like changing anytime soon.
You could argue that Celtic’s stuttering start has contributed to the competitive nature. In fairness to the other clubs though they are where they are right now on merit.
As much as it pains me to say it, Hearts have set the pace. Hibs are the highest scorers in the league so far with Rangers a close second.
Three clubs (Hearts, Hibs and Livi) have lost just one of the eight games played and four clubs (Celtic, Kilmarnock, Rangers and Aberdeen) have lost just two games. Celtic have the meanest defence with only four goals conceded but they have the third highest goal difference behind Hibs and Rangers.
After this weekend it could all look very different though. Those clubs who had a lot of players on international duty will be assessing fitness before selecting their matchday squads.
For most Scottish clubs the majority of their players will have been taking a break. Ten players from clubs outside of the country made up this Scotland squad whilst the other fifteen play in Scotland’s top flight.
Celtic were the biggest contributor to the national squad with seven players. Aberdeen provided four, with Hearts providing two and the remaining two home based players coming from Kilmarnock and Rangers.
Not everyone got game time or had a positive experience. It was far from a happy camp.
With internationals behind us – until November – we can focus on the league again. Other first team players will be returning from international duty be it at senior team or under age level.
Tom Rogic, Daniel Arzani, Mikael Lustig, Emilio Izaguirre, Cristian Gamboa, Dedryck Boyata are amongst the other players who were away on international duty. Filip Benkovic, Lewis Morgan and Olivier Ntcham turned out for their respective under-21 national sides.
So very few of Celtic’s team actually got a rest. Weary from their travels or not, the focus turns to Hibs.
This could be a great game. There haven’t been too many dull encounters between Rodgers and Lennon.
There could be opportunities for players not away on international duty to get a starting place. However, Brendan will not want to experiment too much against a form side such as Hibs.