The Scottish Premiership table has a rather unfamiliar look to it so far this season, with Edinburgh rivals Hearts and Hibs occupying first and second places.
As we enter October, champions Celtic find themselves as low as fifth, two points and one spot clear of Steven Gerrard’s Rangers. Aberdeen, routinely second best in recent times, are in the bottom half after a slow start of their own.
This weekend is the litmus test, arguably, for the table-topping Jambos as they head for Ibrox to put their unbeaten record on the line against Rangers who are sure to be buzzing after a big Europa League win over Rapid Vienna on Thursday evening.
Rangers and Hearts to draw 1-1 @ 13/2
Craig Levein’s Hearts have made their best start to a top-flight domestic season in a generation. The experienced coach has suggested his squad is “ready and capable of getting points” from Sunday’s game.
With six wins and a scoreless draw – against fourth-placed Livingston who have since beaten Rangers – Hearts top the table. They’ve only been breached three times (the lowest in the division), while their tally of 13 goals is bettered only by Rangers.
The Govan side came from behind to win in Europe in midweek and have excelled at Ibrox, scoring 16 goals in their last four games, winning six on the bounce.
This has the big-game feeling for both clubs. Afterwards, Hearts’ next league games are at home against Aberdeen and then city rivals Hibernian before a trip to Celtic Park, with a League Cup semi-final with Brendan Rodgers’ side at Murrayfield between.
Rangers are solid favourites at 20/31 but that does look a bit short. Both teams have been decent at stifling this season and there ought not to be much in this contest. The draw looks fair at 3/1, while it could be worth siding with 1-1 as the predicated outcome.
Celtic to win and under 3.5 goals @ 20/21
A half-time advantage wasn’t enough for Celtic in Austria on Thursday as they suffered the inverse of Rangers’ come-from-behind 3-1 win in the Europa League, with the Bhoys going down to FC Salzburg.
Granted, their hosts were semi-finalists last season and are a fine side, but the standard away-day European performance from Celtic has a ‘Groundhog Day’ feel to it now, with very little threat going forward and, so often, conceding loose goals.
It certainly makes you wonder when winger James Forrest – red carded in the second half – suggests there was “shock and awe” in the Bhoys’ dressing room that this was their fate.
St Johnstone away is likely to be much less taxing. The home side have picked up one point from nine in recent jousts with Aberdeen, Rangers and Hearts although they’ve scored in all three games.
Celtic’s defence has been solid – at least domestically – and they should prove stubborn here. They’ve not yet managed to flow in an attacking sense so far and so an away win with under 3.5 goals scored seems a safe bet.
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