CELTIC vs. HEARTS
For Neil Lennon and his Celtic side the season has finally started. The early season cobwebs have been blown away and normal service has resumed. In fact, some might argue normal service has been surpassed, given Tuesday night’s 3-2 win over Spartak Moscow, the Hoops’ first EVER away win in the Champions League. Goalkeeper Fraser Forster’s call up to the England squad, Celtic’s first since Alan Thompson in 2004, didn’t really feel like normal service either. But domestically, top of the league does.
Last weekend’s 2-0 win over Motherwell returned the Parkhead side to where most had expected them to be much earlier - top. Perhaps the biggest factor in Celtic’s return to grace has been striker Gary Hooper’s return to form (he was so impressive against Spartak Gary Lineker described him on Twitter as “#impressive”). The Harlow born attacker has now netted seven times in his last four games, prompting many to suggest he could be set to follow teammate Forster into Roy Hodgson’s thinking. And with Celtic having scored nine times in their previous three fixtures, over 3.5 total goals scored is available at 2.85.
Hearts’ season has taken a rather different path to their opponents of this weekend. After an impressive 3-0 win over Dundee United there had been hope in Gorgie that the Jambos would build some momentum on the back of it. That hope was short-lived, as Kilmarnock left Tynecastle with all three points and a 3-1 win last week.
As manager John McGlynn has highlighted, goalscoring has become a problem. Hearts fans had mused that the problem might have been solved after putting three past Dundee United. As it turns out, that probably had more to do with the opposition than the Jambos’ strikeforce, with United falling to another heavy defeat, 4-0, to Inverness last week. McGlynn’s side are available at 1.75 not to score.
INVERNESS vs. ROSS COUNTY
For years the Highland derby has been one of the highlights of the Scottish football calendar. For Inverness the prospect of it offered some consolation, because when this fixture cropped up on the schedule it meant Caley Thistle had dropped down to the second tier. This year is different.
For the first time Ross County will square up to their Highland rivals in Scotland’s top flight. This was never a second-class clash, but now it’s first class in every way.
For those skeptical of this tie’s ferocity and intensity, consider Cardiff midfielder Don Cowie’s comments this week. Despite being on the verge of the English Premier League, the Scotland international will cast an eye north on Friday night, insisting: “unless you’re from the area you probably don’t understand what it means to people.”
In terms of league position this fixture generates its own importance too. Both clubs are level with each other on eight points from eight games. With only three points separating 11th place with 6th, a lot is at stake.
Terry Butcher’s men head into the tie on the back of their biggest win of the season so far, an impressive 4-0 victory over Dundee United. Caley Thistle have yet to register successive results in the league, meaning they are available at a lengthy 50.0 to win 4-0 again.
Ross County have based their first ever SPL campaign on defensive resolution. Until last week’s crushing, yet thrilling, 5-4 defeat to St Mirren. Perhaps backing another defensive collapse wouldn’t so ill-advised after all.
However, if you reckon County will return to their old self (they let in more goals against St Mirren than they had all season up until that point) then Derek Adams’ side are available at 3.50 to keep a clean sheet.
MOTHERWELL vs. DUNDEE UNITED
August and September always have the potential to throw up peculiar looking league tables, and the SPL is no different. As champions Celtic struggled to find traction early on, others took advantage, none more so than Motherwell.
But as Stuart McCall’s men conceded twice to lose 2-0 to Celtic last week they also conceded top spot. It’s now October, and the single point gap separating ‘Well with the Hoops seems bigger.
Saturday’s defeat was the first time since the opening day draw with Ross County that the Steelmen have failed to find the net. Striker Michael Higdon, who had scored seven times in his previous four games, looked languid as Celtic’s backline comfortably dealt with a frontline that had troubled the rest of the SPL all season. Motherwell are available at 3.90 to make it two successive goalless displays.
The study of Dundee United’s season continues to intrigue after last week’s 4-0 defeat to relegation candidates Inverness. Such has been the downturn in United’s form since a 3-0 opening day win over Hibernian, manager Peter Houston has been the subject of the first sacking speculation of the season. The Tangerines haven’t found the net in the league since August, a strange development given their potent attacking line. However, they are available at 1.30 to find the net at the first attempt in October.
-Back Celtic to beat Hearts 2-0 at 6.50.
-Back a 0-0 draw between Inverness and Ross County at 8.75.
-Back Motherwell to beat Dundee United at 2.35.