With the transfer window open and the Ladbrokes Scottish Premiership having taken a brief backseat to the fourth round of the William Hill Scottish Cup, and with only half of the top league’s teams currently guaranteed to progress to the fifth round, now seems a good time to assess the form of Scotland’s elite clubs.
Celtic, unsurprisingly, lead the table and, despite a few wobbles, particularly in home matches versus Kilmarnock and Motherwell and question marks over manager Ronny Deila’s future, should win the title comfortably such is the gulf in resources between them and the rest. It is to Aberdeen’s credit, however, that they should currently be within three points of the Glasgow giants albeit with an extra game played. Sustaining a title challenge may prove beyond them again, though.
Hearts, in third place, have continued their form from their Championship winning season and, although they have struggled for wins in recent weeks, they should have sufficient strength within their squad to be challenging for a Europa League place.
The top six of the table is made of up recent regulars in that part of the SPFL – St Johnstone, Ross County and Inverness Caledonian Thistle but such is the tightness of the current table that there is only a ten point gap between the Saints and second-bottom Kilmarnock. It would therefore, take a brave individual to make any serious bets about which sides will fill the top six places come the split in April.
Directly chasing a top six place are Dundee, who have struggled for consistency in recent weeks but, in convincingly beating Hamilton Accies and local rivals Dundee United, have shown they have the makings of a capable side.
Below them can be found in-form Motherwell whose current five-match unbeaten run, which included victory at Celtic Park, led in part to Mark McGhee being awarded the Scottish Premiership Manager of the Month for December. This upsurge in form should help the Steelmen stay well clear of the relegation worries they experienced last year.
Another bottom six side enjoying positive form is Partick Thistle whose recent unbeaten run was only ended by the narrowest of defeats at Celtic Park at New Year. Whilst a top six finish might be beyond the Jags, they would appear to have enough about them to avoid relegation.
Less confident of avoiding the stress of a relegation battle are Hamilton Accies who have now gone five games without a win, conceding fifteen goals in the process. A shock four-one defeat at League Two Annan Athletic in the William Hill Scottish Cup, will do little to relieve Accies’ current anxieties.
Kilmarnock currently occupy the dreaded relegation play-off position and, with only one win in their past ten league games, it is not difficult to see why. They will, however, take heart from their victory over fellow Scottish Premiership side St Johnstone in the William Hill Scottish Cup and from the fact that they are far from caught adrift given the aforementioned gap of just ten points between them and the Saints.
Bottom-placed Dundee United, however, are very much adrift, sitting eleven points behind Killie. The Tannadice club’s 2015 began with the loss of key players and ended with them bottom of a league in which they are more accustomed to being top six challengers. Manager Mixu Paatelainen is likely to strengthen his squad during the transfer window but to close such a huge points gap with only 17 games remaining and with the sides above them taking points from each other may be too great a task for any side.