The new football season is almost upon us and the Scottish Premiership kicks things off, with the opening games set to be played on Saturday 1st of August. Celtic will be hot favourites to retain the title they won again last year, and with the continued absence of Rangers from the top flight, it falls to the likes of Aberdeen to mount a serious challenge.
The Champions are at home on Saturday to Ross County, in one of four Saturday afternoon fixtures:
12.45 Celtic v Ross County
3.00 Hamilton Academical v Partick Thistle
3.00 Kilmarnock v Dundee
3.00 Inverness v Motherwell
Kilmarnock v Dundee
The first of our tips is a bold one at decent odds, but we fancy Killie to get off to a flying start by beating a modest Dundee side on home ground. The sides were eventually only separated by six points last season, although they competed in different section in the league after the split, with Dundee in the Championship group and Kilmarnock in the relegation group. Killie suffered a poor end to the season – possibly brought on by having little to play for – and lost their last four games to finish on 38 points, seven clear of the relegation zone. Dundee were bottom of the top half in sixth place with 44 points, and never really mounted a serious challenge for the European places.
This is a typical mid-table clash, and as the home side Kilmarnock look a little overpriced:
Kilmarnock – +170 with BetVictor
Dundee did assert their authority last season, winning 2 of the three meetings, the most recent a 1-0 win at the Dens Park Stadium, which saw Dundee leapfrog Killie into 7th place at the time. However, Kilmarnock have won six of the last 10 matches at their home ground, Rugby Park, and there is reason to believe they can give a good account of themselves in this season curtain-raiser.
Kilmarnock have made some astute signings over the summer under manager Gary Locke, with a notable recent acquisition of Lee McCulloch from Rangers. The 37 year-old veteran has signed a three-year deal as player/coach and will bring a huge amount of experience to the club. He’s the third player to make the switch from Ibrox in the close season, following Kris Boyd and Stevie Smith on Killie’s new adventure, and they could be set for a decent season. Defender Mark Connelly has been handed the captain’s armband after Italian Manuel Pascali returned to his homeland with Cittadella, and the 23 year-old Irishman is keen to get off to a good start as leader. There’s a positive air around the club as the season draws closer, and they’ll be fighting tooth and nail to get three points on the board on Saturday afternoon.
Dundee have also been busy adding new face to the squad under manager Paul Hartley, adding the services of former Scotland under-21 midfielder Nick Ross from Inverness, and promising young left-back, Kevin Holt from Championship side Queen of the South. Boss Hartley described the signing of Ross in particular as a ‘coup‘, claiming that they had beaten off competition from several other clubs for his signature. They’ve already announced their intentions this season to have a go at a cup run, and it’s also a positive outlook coming out of the club.
They may go away empty-handed on Saturday though, and having lost 5 of their last 6 away trips, there is a bit of value in backing Kilmarnock to put them on the losing side again.
Inverness v Motherwell
Our other tip North of the Border on Saturday involves another home side, Inverness, against last season’s relegation play-off winners Motherwell. Calling them ‘winners’ is something of a stretch, as they only retained their Premiership status by the skin of their teeth, and it was probably more a feeling of relief than celebration when they beat Rangers in the final.
The Fir Park club finished 2nd bottom of the table, above only St Mirren who were automatically relegated. They eventually faced Rangers in the play-off final as the Ibrox club attempted a return from exile to the Premiership, but the door was slammed firmly shut as Motherwell won 3-0 away and 3-1 at home to record a 6-1 aggregate win.
Inverness had a much better time of things, finishing third, winning the Scottish FA Cup and qualifying for the Europa League. Unfortunately they’ve already been knocked out of Europe by Romanian club Astra Guirgui, who frustrated Gary Tansey’s side with a 1-0 aggregate win.
Obviously the club and the players will be disappointed by that result, but the Cup win is still fresh in the memory, as is the third-placed finish, and they will be hungry to earn another bite at the European cherry. Inverness won two of the three meeting between the clubs last term – once at home and once away – and they’ve also won three of the last four on home ground.
Overall last season, Inverness won 9 of their 17 games in front of their own fans, and were only beaten twice all year. Motherwell were the worst away side in the entire division last term, losing 13 of their 17 away trips, with just 3 wins and 1 draw. They’ve also been adding to the squad, but it’s difficult to attract players and it looks like it could be another long, hard season for ‘Well.
There’s no such pressure at Inverness, where they will be approaching the season with relish as they attempt to match last season’s great achievements. These two clubs are on different trajectories right now, and the price on Inverness getting off to a perfect start looks more than reasonable.
Scottish Premiership, Saturday 1st August:
Kilmarnock – +170 with BetVictor
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