We’re approaching the business end in Scotland. With 31 games played of the Scottish Premiership 2018/19 season, we have a clear idea of how things will look come the end of the campaign.
Celtic are 13 points clear at the top and surely en route for eighth successive title in a row and what would be the club’s 50th championship.
There are, however, European places and a relegation battle still to be sorted. Here, we preview the best of a full programme of midweek fixtures.
Rangers v Hearts
Rangers look to put their Old Firm disappointment behind them when they host Hearts at Ibrox on Wednesday night.
Steven Gerrard’s first season in management looks destined to finish with a runner-up place, now 13 points adrift of Celtic after a 2-1 defeat at Parkhead.
Rangers, of course, will be without top scorer Alfredo Morelos after another moment of madness on Sunday resulted in his fifth red card of the season and a four-game ban. Gerrard bluntly described the incident as indefensible and must realise now that, despite the Colombian’s talent, there is no legislating for his volatility.
Hearts have enjoyed a solid season but Rangers boast a strong record against them, having won each of the last five league meetings.
Craig Levein’s side are guaranteed a spot in the post-split top six but will still be keen to heap more misery on Rangers.
Aberdeen v Motherwell
This is the last throw of the dice for Motherwell. Five points adrift of Hibs with two pre-split fixture remaining, Stephen Robinson knows his side must take maximum points and hope Hibs over the next week.
It won’t be easy for The Steelmen but they have a decent record against Aberdeen. They have won 3-0 in two of the last three meetings (one of which came in last season’s cup semi-final) and, while both of those came at Fir Park, they clearly know what it takes to get past Derek McInnes’ men who, you feel, will have one eye on their Scottish Cup final against Celtic on Saturday week.
Aberdeen have been far from impenetrable at home, too, having failed to win nine of their 16 games. There is certainly hope for Well, especially if they can be as clinical as they were in November’s 3-0 win when Danny Johnson bagged a brace before top scorer David Turnbull finished off The Dons.
Hibernian v Kilmarnock
Kilmarnock issued an emphatic statement of late-season intent at the weekend with a merciless 5-0 rout of Hamilton at Rugby Park.
The win moved Steve Clarke’s Killie above Aberdeen into third and boosted their hopes of securing a Europa League qualifying place.
Usurping Rangers – six points above them – is a big ask but Kilmarnock certainly seem up for the task of shattering the division’s Old Firm duopoly.
As mentioned earlier, Hibs can ill afford dropped points with Motherwell lurking in seventh but they are fresh off back-to-back victories so should approach Wednesday night’s clash with plenty of confidence.
These encounters usually produce buckets of goals. The last four Premiership games have seen no fewer than 20 while the last two at Easter Road have ended 3-2 and 5-3 to Hibs.
St Mirren v Celtic
A massive game for St Mirren sees them welcome the leaders to St Mirren Park. Oran Kearney’s Buddies clinched a crucial win over fellow strugglers Dundee on Saturday, with Brad Lyons’ second-half goal enough to take them off bottom spot in the table.
It was only their second league win of 2019 but it came at the right time, providing a major boost to their survival hopes ahead of the climactic weeks of the season.
Celtic pose a much more formidable challenge than Dundee, of course, and Neil Lennon won’t be interested in doing his compatriot Kearney any favours as he looks to wrap up the title.
The Hoops struggled here in September, though, limping to a 0-0 draw in a game which saw Olivier Ntcham sent off. January’s encounter in Glasgow went rather differently, with Oliver Burke netting two on his debut as Celtic ran out 4-0 winners.
St Mirren have scored just three goals in their last eight league meetings with Celtic. It could be a long night for the Saints but if Saturday is anything to go by, they’ll certainly be up for the fight.
Wednesday’s other games: Livingston v Hamilton & St. Johnstone v Dundee
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