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It’s cup football all the way this week with the Copa del Rey being contested in Spain during the week, the FA Cup third round being played in England, and the Scottish FA Cup third round also taking place. The English and Scottish action begins on Friday night with games throughout the weekend, and we’re taking a rare trip north of the border to take in some of the action – including the televised tie between Hearts and Aberdeen.
BBC Scotland will show the game at Saturday teatime – 5:30 pm to be precise – and it’s a tussle that will pit the Premiership’s 2nd and 3rd placed teams against each other. That’s the pick of the third round matches with both Rangers and Celtic facing relatively easy ties on Sunday afternoon. The face of Scottish football has been unrecognizable in recent years because of Rangers financial troubles, with the Ibrox club still in the Championship as they work their way back up the leagues. They currently sit top of that table and on Sunday face League One strugglers Cowdenbeath at home. Celtic play later on Sunday afternoon away at another of League One’s lesser lights, Stranraer. Neither of the two Scottish giants make much appeal from a betting point of view, although the money buyers will probably be out in force for a short-priced double. We prefer to turn our attention to some of the other ties in search of a little bit more value at the odds.
St Johnstone are one of the teams who could earn us a pretty penny on Saturday afternoon as they play host to relegation-threatened Kilmarnock at McDiarmid Park. The Saints are 4th in the Premiership and will see this as a great opportunity to progress their already impressive season. Another side that catches the eye is Falkirk, who are second behind Rangers in the Championship table and are unbeaten in eleven games. They face a trip to Premiership Dundee, and with the Dark Blues showing inconsistent form all season, the Bairns will more than fancy their chances.
Celtic with 36 wins and 54 final appearances, and Rangers with 33 wins and 51 final appearances, have predictably dominated this cup competition, but neither made the final last year as Falkirk went down to Inverness Caledonian Thistle who won their first ever FA Cup. That offers hope for many other teams in the competition, and although Celtic have won two of the last five renewals, it is no longer the foregone conclusion that it appeared in the early 2000’s. There’s a long way to go until we reach that stage though, and this weekend’s third round has all the makings of a cracker.
Hearts v Aberdeen
The draw makes plenty of appeal here as 2nd and 3rd go head-to-head, with Ladbrokes offering a standout 5/2 3.50 +250 2.50 2.50 -0.40
These two sides met as recently as the 12th of December where Adam Rooney’s 87th minute penalty was enough to see Aberdeen come away with a slender victory at Pittodrie. The game had looked to be heading for a stalemate until Hearts defender Jordan McGhee inexplicably handled a cross in his own six yard box when under no real pressure to gift the game to the hosts. There will be no such charity when the Jam Tarts welcome the Dons to Tynecastle this weekend and another tight match should be in store.
Hearts are 3rd in the table and that defeat was their only reverse in the last nine matches. They are unbeaten at home all season apart from a 2-1 loss to Celtic and a 3-1 defeat again at the hands of Aberdeen back in September. However, that was the Dons first victory here in seven meetings so there is no guarantee that they’ll repeat the feat. In fact, Hearts had beaten them on five of their previous six visits, with one draw, so if anything the stats point to a home win.
Aberdeen are unbeaten in ten games though (apart from a loss to Celtic back in October), and they currently occupy 2nd position in the league behind the perennial leaders. It’s also worth noting that Hearts have drawn five of their last seven, and a stalemate looks well and truly on the cards here.
St Johnstone v Kilmarnock
St Johnstone look a good bet to beat Kilmarnock at 73/100 1.73 -137 0.73 -1.37 0.73 with Bet365 when the two lock horns at McDiarmid Park on Saturday afternoon.
The Saints are having a great season so far, sitting in 4th place in the Premiership with 31 points, while Kilmarnock are holding the relegation play-off spot two points adrift of safety. St Johnstone have had a tough little run of matches recently, having played an in-form Motherwell, Hearts and Celtic, but prior to that they’d won 9 of 11 matches including a 2-1 win against Killie in November. There’s no reason why they can’t pull off a similar result with the visitors in poor form.
Kilmarnock have won just one of the last ten games, with six defeats and three draws, and they’re shipping goals at an alarming rate. St Johnstone have won this fixture on five of the last seven occasions and a home win is worth backing again.
Dundee FC v Falkirk
Falkirk or draw looks more than tempting at 21/20 2.05 +105 1.05 1.05 -0.95 with Bet365 when they travel to inconsistent Dundee.
The Dark Blues are 7th in the Premiership table, and although they’ve managed wins against lowly Hamilton and city rivals Dundee United recently, they’ve failed to string together two victories all season. They haven’t been able to beat Falkirk on their last two visits, and the Bairns are in superb form right now.
Falkirk have won 9 of the last 11 matches, drawing the other two, and they are only three points behind Rangers in the Championship. They showed their cup prowess last year by going all the way to the final of this competition and they are more than capable of coming away with a result here.
Hearts and Aberdeen to draw
Saturday 9th January, 17:30 GMT
Odds: 5/2 3.50 +250 2.50 2.50 -0.40
St Johnstone to beat Kilmarnock
Saturday 9th January, 15:00 GMT
Odds: 73/100 1.73 -137 0.73 -1.37 0.73
Falkirk or Draw double chance
Saturday 9th January, 15:00 GMT
Odds: 21/20 2.05 +105 1.05 1.05 -0.95