Kilmarnock may have pulled off one of last season’s biggest shocks when beating Celtic in the League Cup final, but that was Killie’s only victory over the Hoops in ten attempts and it’s hard not to feel that Kenny Shiels’ men are up against it as they visit the champions today.
Neil Lennon’s side are in cracking form at present, having won four league matches in a row without conceding and added European and League Cup victories to their card in between. On Tuesday of course, the Hoops also nearly claimed a point in the Camp Nou, only going down to a heartbreaking Jordi Alba winner in the 94th minute of their Champions League clash with Barcelona so it’s difficult to find a chink in their armour ahead of this afternoon’s tussle.
Bookies agree and so Celtic are priced at just 1/5 by bet365 to send Kilmarnock back to Ayrshire empty-handed while Skybet post 12/1 against the visitors and it’s 11/2 via Stan James to finish all square.
Sceptics might suggest that the midweek loss in Spain will have affected morale in the Hoops camp and indeed it can’t be easy to bounce back from such a disappointment but Lennon will have spent the last few days ensuring his players focus only on the positives from their battling display and Celtic can translate that into a comfortable triumph.
Paddy Power offer odds of 5/6 about a fifth consecutive SPL victory ‘to nil’ for the Bhoys, who are just 5/1 (Ladbrokes) to notch twice without reply but a more comprehensive scoreline isn’t out of the question given last week’s 5-0 mauling of St Mirren and at a slightly chunkier 6/1 with William Hill, it might be worth a few quid on a 3-0 home win.
Meanwhile, in attack, Gary Hooper broke the deadlock for Celtic last weekend and also struck twice when these two sides last met so he’s the man to get you first scorer wedge on at 5/2 (bet365).
Aberdeen and Dundee have played only a couple of League Cup ties since they last met in the SPL (in 2004-05) when they drew twice and the Dark Blues scored a 1-0 win at Dens Park. It means that the Dons have not beaten Dundee in a league match since December 2002, though bookies expect that record to be amended at Pittodrie on Saturday where Aberdeen kick off as Ladbrokes’ 4/9 favourites.
It’s difficult to see any outcome other than a Dons victory, albeit a close one. Punters who agree can get 5/2 (BetVictor) about Aberdeen sneaking it by a one-goal margin.
Hearts and Ross County have never met in a league fixture, so history will be made at Tynecastle on Saturday when the Staggies take to the field as Paddy Power’s 7/2 underdogs. Hearts, 20/21 chances with Stan James, had stuttered at home until Danny Grainger’s screamer saw off Motherwell on Sunday but that result will provide a much-needed boost for the Jambos and while the visitors’ triumph over Hibs is likely to be equally beneficial, home advantage can see John McGlynn’s troops sneak it.
St Mirren and Dundee United shared the points in all three of their SPL encounters last term – in fact, they’ve drawn five of their last six meetings and that stalemate sequence is 12/5 via BetVictor to continue as the pair face-off today. The Terrors are yet to win away from home, where they’ve managed just the one goal in three outings but the Buddies were battered by Celtic last weekend so they hardly appeal either meaning yet another draw gets the nod, alongside Stan James’ 6/1 for it to end one apiece.
Caley Thistle and St Johnstone meanwhile are both in tremendous shape ahead of their Caledonian Stadium clash and that makes it difficult to pick a winner. The hosts have won three on the bounce and are unbeaten in six in all competitions but Saints arrive on the back of six straight victories so the shrewd cash is on the two to cancel each other out, a result bet365 offer at 12/5.
Celtic to beat Kilmarnock 3-0 – 6/1 (William Hill)
Gary Hooper to score first – 5/2 (bet365)
Aberdeen and Hearts double – 9/5 (Stan James)
Inverness and St Johnstone to draw – 12/5 (bet365)