Kilmarnock vs CelticScottish League Cup, KO: 15:00 Aug 20, 2023, Rugby Park
KILMARNOCK have been a surprise package in the first fortnight of the new SPFL Premiership season and will now look to spring another shock against Celtic in the League Cup last 16.
A well-drilled defence was the key to that success and Killie followed it up with another clean sheet last weekend as they emerged from Tynecastle with a battling point.
Having only just avoided a relegation play-off slot last term following promotion from the Championship, it looks like Kilmarnock are ready to push on under the canny former Aberdeen gaffer.
But McInnes will also be looking to enjoy another decent cup run. having guided his side to the semi-finals of this competition last term. It was Celtic who ended their adventure at Hampden and the Hoops pulled off another clean sweep of domestic trophies.
The departure of boss Ange Postecoglou threatened to disrupt Celtic at the end of the campaign but there was a measure of continuity as Brendan Rodgers returned for a second spell in charge.
Some fans still refuse to forgive the Irishman for jumping ship to Leicester midway through the season back in 2019 but his return has generally been greeted warmly.
His task is to keep the juggernaut on track and Rodgers has overseen two victories so far, with a 4-2 home success over Ross County followed by a 3-1 victory away to a dangerous Aberdeen side.
Rodgers won every domestic competition during his first spell as Celtic gaffer so he will be desperate to get his hands on the first piece of silverware available this term. But a trip to the plastic pitch at Rugby Park is a potential banana skin with the Parkhead side still to hit top gear and suffering injuries to a few key players.
How the bookies view it
Celtic are hot favourites to qualify at a best 2/11 with Bet365 and the odds only increase to 1/3 with the same firm for a win in 90 minutes. Kilmarnock are 5/1 with SkyBet to reach the quarter-finals and 9/1 at Coral to do so without extra-time or penalties.
Recent head to head
Kilmarnock were a thorn in Celtic's side during Rodgers' first spell as boss when Steve Clarke was in the opposition dugout. But the Hoops have dominated this fixture since Clarke stepped up to the Scotland job, winning 12 of the last 13 meetings and drawing the other. All four clashes last term ended in Celtic victories, including 5-0 and 4-1 routs at Rugby Park.
Players to watch
McInnes raided old club Aberdeen to land Matty Kennedy this summer and it looks like a shrewd signing. The winger is 11/2 at SkyBet for a goal in this one but is probably more likely for an assist once that market is priced up.
David Turnbull has come in from the cold for Celtic since Rodgers' return and netted twice on the opening day. He was hooked at half-time against Aberdeen but should start again here with his replacement Reo Hatate picking up an injury after coming on. The midfielder is on the penalties for Celtic and is a tempting 13/5 at William Hill to score.
Anything else catch the eye?
Celtic have romped home on their last two visits to Rugby Park but I'd be surprised if they got it so easy this time with Killie in good form. The Hoops have conceded in both their games so far and could be vulnerable again here if Cameron Carter-Vickers misses out through injury. That makes BTTS worth a shout at evens with QuinnBet while the same bet pays 10/11 at William Hill.
I'd expect McInnes to set up to frustrate so it could be a game of patience for Celtic if they fail to make an early breakthrough. Bet365 offer 5/6 on the game being scoreless after 25 minutes while the same firm price most goals to come after the break at evens.
With Postecoglou at the helm, Celtic bossed the corner count in games but there has been a change in that trend under Rodgers so far. Ross County won more than the Hoops at Parkhead and it ended 9-9 in the market at Pittodrie. That suggests Killie could be worth a punt in the corner handicap here once that market is priced up.
This Scottish League Cup match between Kilmarnock and Celtic will be played on Aug 20, 2023 and kick off at 15:00. Check below for our tipsters best Kilmarnock vs Celtic prediction. You may also visit our dedicated betting previews section for the most up to date previews.