ABERDEEN have the chance to close the gap and open up the title race today when top of the table Celtic make the trip north to Pittodrie.
The Dons suffered a setback at Easter Road last weekend, going down 2-0 to an impressive Hibs, otherwise they'd be just six points behind Celtic going in to this one.
Celtic's preparation for the match involved a 2,600 mile trip to St Petersburg, where they were dumped out of the Europa League in a 3-0 defeat to Zenit and Brendan Rodgers side are desperately in need of a win to re-ignite their season.
By Celtic's standards things haven't been great; they've won just two in their last five, a run that's included a defeat at in-form Kilmarnock and two dropped points at home to St Johnstone, albeit Rodgers made seven changes to his starting line-up.
Rangers' win over Hearts yesterday won't have gone unnoticed and the Hoops faithful will want to restore their nine point lead over their Glasgow rivals.
Despite Aberdeen being Celtic's closest challengers in recent years they've lost each of their last nine meetings with the Bhoys and the Hoops have reserved two of their best performances of the season for their clashes with the Dons, recording 3-0 wins in each meeting.
Brendan Rodgers seems to have the measure of his counterpart Derek McInnes. I can imagine that Celtic will still be stinging from that Europa League exit and expect them to bounce-back with a win that will kickstart their surge to the title.
Celtic have scored just four in their last five matches so the goals aren't exactly flying in. The likes of Moussa Dembele and free-scoring Scott Sinclair look a shadow of the players they were last season. Throw in the fact that Leigh Griffiths remains sidelined through injury and you can see where the current problems lie.
One shining light this season has been James Forrest. The winger is having arguably the best season of his career and notched his first ever hat-trick in Celtic's 3-2 win over Partick Thistle. He could prove a match-winner once more and can be backed at 9/4 to score anytime.
Although rarely bad-tempered affairs there have been at least four cards in each of the last nine meetings between the two sides at Pittodrie. Both sides have among the best disciplinary records in the league and referee John Beaton's card count stands at 3.42 per match this season.
The card line is set at 4.5 and with conflicting stats I think it best to leave this one alone.
Even in defeat in St Petersburg Celtic ‘enjoyed' the majority of possession and they tend to so in most matches in Scotland. That leads to more attacks, more shots and more corners. They average 6.81 per match (6.77 away from home) so when the line is set at over 5.5 it looks like an opportunity.
Bet Builder Tip
- Celtic to win
- James Forrest to score anytime
- Celtic to take over 5.5 corners
- Pays 10-1 at Bet365