CELTIC will raise the champions flag and kick off the season against Ross County – but planners have scheduled the best two games of the opening weekend for tomorrow.
There’s not much about Celtic-Ross County that excites me but it’s a Super Sunday with Hearts v St Johnstone and Dundee Utd v Aberdeen.
The Premiership badly missed Hearts, Hibs and Rangers last season and it’s good to see the Jambos back where they belong in the top flight. Tynecastle will be packed out every week and that’s great to see and long-suffering fans could be treated to three points in their opener.
Robbie Neilson’s side flew out of the traps last season and I expect more of the same – as do bookies who have priced up the capital club to finish third.
That’s setting the bar high but I’m willing to back the Jambos for a top-six place but that’s no bigger than 1-4 at Skybet.
We’ll get an early indication of where they sit against a St Johnstone side who finished third last season but tamely bowed out of the Europa League at the first stage to minnows Alashkert. Hearts are 23-20 with Skybet to win with the draw 5-2 at bet365 and McBookie going 13-5 for an away success.
If Aberdeen weren’t in the middle of a Europa League tie against Almaty they’d be one of my best bets of the weekend. Dundee Utd have been on a downer since selling Stuart Armstrong and Gary Mackay-Steven to Celtic and Nadir Citci followed the duo on the road to Glasgow last month.
Jackie McNamara is talking up his weakened squad but six defeats in pre-season tells its own story. Aberdeen will be further down the road fitness wise and showed their quality with a 3-0 win in Rijeka in the last round of the Europa League.
My one concern is how much the trip to Kazakhstan will have taken out of them and how focused they’ll be with the return to come at Pittodrie on Thursday as they try to claw back a 2-1 deficit. Boss Derek McInnes says “he’ll use his squad” but doesn’t want to repeat last season’s opening-day defeat to the tangerines.
I know loads of punters will be tempted by Aberdeen at evens with Ladbrokes and Betfred but I’m not sure. If the Dons are jaded and distracted the best bet could be under 2.5 goals at 4-5 with McBookie with United a bit short up top.
Celtic are also in the middle of a Euro tie and head to Azerbaijan with a 1-0 lead over Qarabag in the bag. However, Ronny Deila’s men have a big enough squad to cope and should be able to take care of a Ross County side who failed to score against the Hoops last season.
I don’t expect fireworks and it could be a 2-0 or 3-0 win for the home men. Celtic to win to nil pays 5-6 at McBookie. Leigh Griffiths will start at the expense of the banned Nadir Ciftci and is 3-1 with the likes of Betfred and bet365 to score first.
Today’s other matches see Hamilton face Partick Thistle, Inverness tackle Motherwell and Kilmarnock entertain Dundee.
Accies finished the season well and while they can beat a Jags side whose squad looks a bit short of bodies they are missing seven players on day one so again under 2.5 goals could be the shout at 11-10 with Betfred.
Inverness can edge out Well with the benefit of an earlier start in the Europa League even though they crashed out to Astra without scoring. John Hughes’s Scottish Cup winners are 3-4 with Paddy Power but Well can’t be as bad as they were last season.
Dundee won twice at Rugby Park last season and have a chance of doing it again. Both sides look in decent shape but I’m chancing the Dens men at 7-4 with the likes of McBookie and Betfred.
William Hill’s Owen Scott is our stats provider and here’s what he’s come up with on day one. These are not tips remember but may help you pick selections.
Celtic v Ross County
Celtic have not conceded a goal in
their last 3 matches against
CELTIC TO WIN TO NIL 8-11
Hamilton v Partick Th
Both Hamilton’s home matches
against Partick last season ended
as score draws.
MATCH TO BE A SCORE DRAW 3-1
Inverness v Motherwell
Both teams have scored in 4 of the
last 5 meetings between these two
sides with the home side winning
3 of the matches.
BOTH TO SCORE AND INVERNESS WIN 3-1
Kilmarnock v Dundee
Dundee have scored in both halves in
three of their last five matches
DUNDEE TO SCORE IN BOTH HALVES 3-1
Dundee Utd v Aberdeen (Sun)
Kenny McLean scored his first Aberdeen
goal away to Rijeka in the Europa
McLEAN TO SCORE AND ABERDEEN WIN 15-4
Hearts v St Johnstone
Hearts have won 3 of their last 4 home
matches against St Johnstone 2-0.
HEARTS TO WIN 2-0 17-2