In the final matches this afternoon before the split, there is one top six place still up for grabs. The destiny of that precious position lies firmly in the hands of Kilmarnock. Should they beat Dundee at Rugby Park this afternoon then their top six future is secure. No other result matters! If they were to draw, however, then a window of opportunity would be opened to Dundee Utd and Aberdeen, who face off at Tannadice today. If they were to lose to Dundee then this would offer an extremely slim chance to Hibs, who travel to Glasgow to play Celtic.
The best place to start, obviously, is at Rugby Park – KILMARNOCK v DUNDEE. Killie could only draw with St Mirren in midweek, when a victory would have secured their top six status. They seemed to have done the hard part last week with a magnificent away victory at Ross County. It now comes down to this game, however, and Kenny Shiels will be hoping his players hold their nerve. Dundee have won only four of their 32 league matches this season, with one solitary away victory. Worryingly, perhaps, for Kilmarnock, is the Dens Park men have achieved two 0-0 draws in their league matches with the Ayrshire side. (Both Dundee Utd and Aberdeen will be praying they can make it three in a row this afternoon!) For today’s encounter Killie forward Rory McKenzie may be added to an injury list which already includes McKeown, Dayton and Pascali. Dundee have Douglas, O’Donnell and McCluskey injured while Gary Irvine is suspended.
Prediction: Kilmarnock to win and clinch that final top six position!
At Tannadice, DUNDEE UTD v ABERDEEN, a victory for either of these sides would mean top six status should Kilmarnock not beat Dundee. There is nothing to choose between the ‘New Firm’ sides. Both have acquired 41 points and their two previous league meetings have both ended in draws. Jackie McNamara’s side have drawn 1-1 in their last two matches, losing an injury time equaliser to St Johnstone on Monday; and failing to beat ten man Dundee in the local derby which they mostly dominated. He may well feel his charges should have already sewn up that top six place. Craig Brown’s Dons, however, had a great 2-0 victory over Hearts last week; and he takes charge for the final time today before handing over the managerial reins to Derek McInnes. His players would surely love to give him a victory as a ‘retirement’ gift. The Dons still have Osbourne, Considine, Hughes and Clark out injured. They are hopeful, however, that Gary Naysmith and Jonny Hayes will return to the squad. United are giving Gary Mackay – Steven until the last-minute to see if he can recover from his hamstring injury. Brian McLean is injured and Stuart Armstrong suspended, although john Rankin returns after serving his ban.
Prediction: Aberdeen to sneak a narrow away victory.
At Parkhead CELTIC v HIBERNIAN features the champions elect against a frustrated Hibs side who have crucially lost their last two league matches. Firstly, let’s get to the ‘events’ which need to occur for Hibs to make the top six: Kilmarnock must lose to Dundee, Aberdeen and Dundee Utd need to draw and Hibs, of course, must defeat Celtic. Impossible? No. Highly unlikely? Yes! Hibs are not the only team who can achieve something in this match today. Should Celtic win and Motherwell lose to St Mirren, the Glasgow side will be crowned SPL champs before the split. Celtic have come in for criticism in some quarters for some lethargic performances since their Champions League exit. Neil Lennon will surely have his troops motivated for today’s possible title-winning opportunity. Commons is touch and go after last week’s ankle injury but Victor Wanyama can play. He has appealed against the controversial red card he received last week. Brown, Matthews and Forrest remain out. Hibs have Alan Maybury back after suspension and Paul Hanlon is available for selection after recovering from injury.
Prediction: Celtic to win as they proceed towards an inevitable title triumph.
With ICT dropping two points last night, MOTHERWELL v ST MIRREN presents The Steelmen with the opportunity of opening up a five point gap over their Highland rivals in that race for second position. Motherwell have a full squad to choose from, while Goncalves is suspended for St Mirren, the punishment for his ‘simulation’ against Celtic last week. Reilly, Barron and McGregor are injured but Gary Teale may recover and be available for selection. Motherwell have been unbeaten for five games but have not beaten St Mirren this season. They drew 1-1 here last August and suffered a 2-1 defeat in Paisley.
Prediction: Motherwell to get that all important win to go five points clear in second place.