AFTER the damp squib that was Rangers-Hearts I’m hoping for more action in Saturday’s early games north and south of the border.
First up in the English Championship it’s Derby v Nottingham Forest at 12.15pm and half an hour later Celtic kick off at Hamilton.
Derby (that’s derby and not Derby) games are usually tough to call as form goes out the window – but I’ve got no fears about backing County to beat fierce rivals Nottinghma Forest.
Steve McClaren’s side are in fine form and on their day boast the toughest attack in the Championship. His opposite number Stuart Pearce is a Tricky Trees legend but fans have been shouting “Timber” after a rotten run of two wins in 19 games.
Forest are freefalling down the table and I can’t see past Derby at a best 8-11 with bet365 and William Hill.
McClaren’s men are sometimes branded a soft touch but rolled up their sleeves to notch an ugly win at Ipswich last weekend so should be up for a fight against their East Midlands neighbours.
Derby won this fixture 5-0 last season and with the likes of Scotland caps Chris Martin and Johnny Russell in fine form they can be considered minus one at 19-10 (sportingbet).
Martin notched the winner at Portman Road and is 4-1 at McBookie to strike first again. County have lost Jordon Ibe who has been recalled by Liverpool and Peter Eustace is banned but their squad should cope with the absences.
New signing Stephen Warnock is nursing an ankle injury and will not be involved while teenager Isak Ssewankambo, who also joined the Rams this week, is not expected to feature.
Forest manager Stuart Pearce is hopeful top scorer Britt Assombalonga will overcome a hip problem. However, Matty Fryatt and Michael Mancienne remain out. Midfielder Henri Lansbury is available again after a two-match ban while centre-back Kelvin Wilson has been training after missing out last weekend through illness.
Celtic return to action after a short winter break in Gran Canaria to try to close the four-point gap on Aberdeen.
The champions – with two games in hand – are still hot favourites at a best 1-8 with William Hill to retain the title and I expect them to be crowned at the end of the season.
But the fact we’re even talking about a flag fight is credit to the Dons. Celtic have a tough test at Hamilton and if they lose in the lunchtime showdown the Dons will have a chance of storming seven points clear by beating Dundee.
Accies beat the Hoops at Parkhead but are reeling from the loss of boss Alex Neil to Norwich and I can’t see past the Parkhead men.
Celtic are no bigger than 2-5 with the likes of McBookie so you have to decide if that’s good value for an away.
Accies battled well without Neil to lose 3-2 at home to Dundee United so there’s a decent chance of both to score at 19-20 with McBookie and BetVictor.
John Guidetti says he’s not worried about his five-game scoring drought and he should be refreshed after his break. Back the Swede at 7-2 with boylesports to score first.
I’m more confident about Aberdeen than Celtic today with the Dons 1-2 at bet365 to make it nine wins in a row.
Later Aberdeen should beat a Dundee side with serious injury concerns. Derek McInnes’s men haven’t conceded in any of those outings and are 13-10 at McBookie, BetVictor and bet365 to win to nil against opponents who haven’t netted on their last three visits to Pittodrie.
(6-4, William Hill)
Martin/Guidetti anytime scorer double
Aberdeen to win to nil (3pm)
(13-10, McBookie, BetVictor, bet365)