Celtic are dominant once more at the top although behind the Hoops there’s a real battle boiling up in the betting without Celtic market as the Scottish Premiership season goes into its winter break.
Aberdeen and Rangers are in pole position while Hibernian (and possibly even Hearts on recent form) might not take kindly to being counted out of the race just yet.
It’s 1/1 take your choice on second-placed Aberdeen and Rangers, three points behind in third going into the shutdown. Hibs, eight adrift of the Dons, are trading at 19/2, with Edinburgh rivals Hearts currently 70/1.
The Jambos are 13 points behind Aberdeen after their scoreless draw on December 30 although they are nine games unbeaten, including last month’s unforgettable 4-0 trouncing of Celtic at Tynecastle.
If Craig Levein can continue those recovery steps in Gorgie, they could close the gap right down while Neil Lennon’s Hibernian have mixed it with any opponents, but may just lack the consistency to stick in there until the end.
It is, therefore, hard not to get excited by the battle that is brewing between Aberdeen and Rangers in this market.
Confidence is relatively high in both camps right now. Rangers headed away to Florida following a credible stalemate with Celtic at Parkhead, a game in which the visitors spurned more decent chances than the champions.
Graeme Murty has been installed until the end of the season and his squad will have got plenty of heart from the derby draw.
James Tavernier, impressive in that clash, has highlighted Rangers’ need to maintain their performance levels in all games – something they simply haven’t done until now.
Considering Rangers beat Aberdeen twice in four days in late November and early December, they’ll be unhappy to be three points behind.
They also won away Hibs last month, plus that point at Celtic, but their good work was largely undone by defeats to St Johnstone (their first Ibrox win in 40-odd years) and Kilmarnock before Christmas.
Aberdeen and Derek McInnes, meanwhile, are chasing a fourth consecutive runner-up finish in the Scottish Premiership.
McInnes’ decision to snub Rangers after Pedro Caixinha was sacked certainly makes the likely duel between the clubs for second spot, and the financial rewards it entails, all the more interesting.
McInnes has already made a significant move in the transfer market after he re-signed Niall McGinn, such a vital cog in Aberdeen’s wheel in recent seasons.
Without the distraction of their manager being coveted, Aberdeen still just about edge the vote on Rangers, owing to their consistency and the ‘Gers lack of it. But this race looks destined to down to the final fence in May.
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