HIBERNIAN vs. CELTIC
It might never have been a genuine proposition, but Hibernian’s title challenge is all but over. The Leith side had topped the SPL table as recently as last month, but since then they’ve picked up just one point from their last seven games. Now, they sit five points adrift of second spot and 12 points behind Celtic, who were their nearest competitors just a few weeks ago.
The downturn in form of on loan Wolves striker Leigh Griffiths has hit Hibs hard, with the 22 year old finding the net just once in the aforementioned poor run of form, having scored eight in the seven games before that. Strike partner Eoin Doyle has attempted to pick up the slack, netting four times in his last three games, but it hasn’t been enough to offset the goals being conceded at the back. Pat Fenlon’s men are available at 8.00 to record their first league win since November.
For the first time this season Celtic have started to put the kind of distance between them and the chasing pack that was expected in August. The Hoops’ comfortable 2-0 win over bottom side Dundee put seven points (still with a game in hand) between them and Inverness, with Gary Hooper and Georgios Samaras demonstrating class that most teams in the SPL cannot match.
The Champions League break appears to have focused Neil Lennon’s men, having won their last five league fixtures, conceding just once and scoring 15. Celtic are available at 11.50 to beat Hibernian 3-0.
MOTHERWELL vs. KILMARNOCK
When it became apparent the SPL’s second spot was up for grabs this season most expected Motherwell to be frontrunners to take it. It might have taken until the turn of the year, but the Steelmen finally seem to be fulfilling that expectation.
Their Boxing Day win over Aberdeen took Stuart McCall’s men level on points with Inverness in second spot after collecting 16 points from their last seven games. The ‘Well attacking front three finally appear to have found the form that fired them to third place last season, with Jamie Murphy netting four times in his last three games and Michael Higdon three in five.Over 3.5 total goals between Motherwell and Kilmarnock is available at 2.85.
Kilmarnock manager Kenny Shiels’ touchline ban has coincided with a run of form that has seen the Ayrshire side take seven points from their last three league fixtures. Midfielder Liam Kelly continues to demonstrate the sort of technical ability that earned him a place in the last Scotland squad, scoring the winner against Hearts from the penalty spot. Strikers Paul Heffernan and Cillian Sheridan have given Killie a presence in attack this season, with the latter demonstrating a knack for the extraordinary. Sheils’ men are available at 4.00 to beat Motherwell.
ROSS COUNTY vs. HEARTS
Having failed to record a single win in their previous eight league fixtures Ross County manager Derek Adams must’ve breathed a sigh of relief after taking three points at Hibernian on Boxing Day.
The win was reminiscent of how the Staggies embarked on an impressive unbeaten run earlier in the season, adopting a counter-attacking style based on a solid backline. Since then the defensive resolution has deserted the Highland side, as they started a run of games that would see them concede 18 in seven. Wednesday’s clean sheet against Hibs was only their second since the opening month of the season and Adams confessed his team would need to demonstrate the same resolution more often if they are to put distance between them and the prospect of relegation. County are available at 3.70 to record a second successive clean sheet.
Having struggled to find the net all season Hearts manager John McGlynn might have finally found a more potent attacking formula, despite failing to notch against Kilmarnock on Boxing Day. Gordon Smith, Ryan Stevenson and John Sutton seem to be developing an understanding up front that had produced four goals in two games before their trip to Rugby Park on Wednesday. Hearts are available at 2.70 to be winning against Ross County at half-time.
Back Celtic to score in both halves against Hibernian at 2.15.
Back Motherwell to beat Kilmarnock 2-0 at 10.00.
Back Ross County to beat Hearts at 3.30.