It is a tall order but Heart of Midlothian remains in contention for the Scottish Premiership silver medal even though it trails the favourite for that honour, Aberdeen, by eight points with only four rounds remaining.
Celtic is on course for its fifth Scottish Premiership title in a row and its 47th top-flight championship overall. But Celtic has underachieved in the eyes of many people and it has announced that Ronny Deila, who succeeded Neil Lennon as Bhoys boss in June 2014, will leave Celtic Park at the end of the season. Celtic’s loss to Rangers in the Scottish Cup semi-final was the final straw for Bhoys supporters who had backed Deila up until that point. Celtic has won trophies under Deila because its resources put it on a different level to that of its opponents, not because the former Stromsgodset manager has done a marvellous job.
For Heart of Midlothian to stay in the hunt for the Scottish Premiership runner-up position it is imperative that it defeats Celtic when the Jam Tarts and the Bhoys meet at Tynecastle on Saturday. Heart of Midlothian is trading at odds of +500 with Betfred, Paddy Power and Totesport and one cannot help thinking that the Jam Tarts are over their true odds.
A 1-1 Scottish Premiership home draw with Ross County last time out is not the form that one likes to see of an away odds-on favourite. And Celtic’s road results versus its closest Scottish Premiership rivals have not been that of a team worth backing at odds around the 1.60 mark. Celtic has lost both of its Scottish Premiership matches at Aberdeen – 1-2 in September and 1-2 in February – and it drew 2-2 on its first trip to Heart of Midlothian in December. Celtic has won just one of its three Scottish Premiership games versus Heart of Midlothian and yet bookmakers are asking punters to take short odds about the Bhoys at Tynecastle.
Time and time again Celtic has come up short on the road to half-decent sides. Celtic’s UEFA Champions League campaign featured a 0-0 draw at Qarabag that did not prove costly and a 0-2 loss at Malmo that ended its participation in UEFA’s top club tournament. Celtic did not win any of its six UEFA Europa League Group A matches that included away scoring draws with Ajax and Fenerbahce and a 1-3 loss at Molde.
The purpose of this column is to highlight bets at long odds that represent value investments. Halifax got the chocolates at odds of +430 by beating Forest Green 1-0 in the English National League last week and one is confident that Heart of Midlothian will give a good account of itself at odds of +500 against a Celtic team reeling from its Scottish Cup semi-final loss to Rangers and with a dead manager walking.
One only has to refer to the Scottish Premiership ladder to construct a simple argument for Heart of Midlothian being grossly over its true odds to garner three points from its home game versus Celtic. Heart of Midlothian is 11-3-2 at home in the Scottish Premiership, while Celtic’s away numbers are 11-4-2. So Heart of Midlothian is averaging more points per Scottish Premiership home match than Celtic is averaging per away game in the competition. One understands why Celtic is the universal warm favourite for Saturday’s Scottish Premiership match but anyone who backs the Bhoys should consult a doctor for urgent medical attention.
Hearts to beat Celtic
Saturday 30th April, 12:30 GMT