Willie Miller’s Prem view: Top-six battle, Dons for second & more
We’re now just eight games away from the split in the Ladbrokes Premiership, but it’s still as tight as ever, with just eight points separating Dundee in sixth from Inverness Caledonian Thistle at the bottom.
I’ll give my tip on who’ll grab the final top-half place, but first it’s time to talk about whether Celtic will finish the league campaign unbeaten, as well as who’ll win the tight battle for second spot. Read on for my verdict…
Celtic’s unbeaten streak
I think there’s always a chance of a slip-up, or one side playing far above their usual level for 90 minutes – but I certainly think they’re good enough to finish the season without defeat.
However, you’ve got to factor in that it’ll get to the stage where the title’s won, probably with a number of games to spare, and Brendan Rodgers will want to experiment and give players an opportunity, so you’re likely to see quite a few combinations of guys who haven’t really played together before.
I have no doubt they’ve got the quality to go unbeaten, but I can see that run without a loss maybe ending once the title’s wrapped up and Brendan starts to switch things around more.
I’m backing Dons for second spot
Right now, Rangers are having a difficult time on the field, with just one win in their last six Ladbrokes Premiership games. And obviously there’s also a bit of uncertainty off the field, with nobody yet appointed since Mark Warburton’s departure.
I can see them picking up again, especially if they make the right appointment. But Aberdeen have the second-best squad in the country, in my view. And with that in mind, and the six-point gap they have on Rangers, I just can’t see the Dons being overtaken.
There’s a battle going on for fourth spot, with Hearts and St Johnstone looking for a top-four finish. Tommy Wright’s men have managed to make the top four in three of the past four seasons. Will that give them the edge, or can Hearts’ January arrivals secure that position?
Saints deserve respect, but it’s Hearts for fourth
St Johnstone have done well again this year. They know how to grind results out and succeed in the top-tier, and you have to say what Tommy Wright’s done there is amazing. It’s not always the prettiest football, but he’s done brilliant work with the resources at his disposal.
In terms of their pool of talent, Heart of Midlothian should get fourth spot, but for me, there are still questions over how well they’ll gel. However, when you look at that squad, I think if push comes to shove, I’m going with Hearts to pip the Saints to fourth.
Dee best equipped for top six
There’s quite a bag of teams fighting for the final top-six spot, and it’s plausible that even the bottom two of Inverness and Hamilton Academical could be involved.
Motherwell looked like they could well finish in the top-half at the turn of the year, and they have a lot of experience in their squad. But they’ve really struggled lately, and had that embarrassing 7-2 defeat at Pittodrie recently.
On the flipside, I thought Kilmarnock might be set for a tough end to the season, but they’ve looked much better in recent weeks, and even though they lost 2-1 to Aberdeen last weekend, they took them to the wire, and performed incredibly well in patches. But it’s hard to know if they can keep that level up.
So I’m going to go for Dundee. They were fantastic against Rangers last time out, beating them 2-1. Paul Hartley’s doing a good job there, and I think he’s got enough nouse and a good enough squad to just edge it and get that sixth-placed finish.
Worrying times for Inverness
As far as relegation goes, I think Inverness are in real danger. They could well fall off the pace in the next few weeks, as they’re on a really poor run right now – and once you get quite a few points behind at the bottom, it’s very hard to lift yourselves again.
They need to rediscover some of last season’s form, and hope that Hamilton have a wobble. Martin Canning did well to help them avoid the drop last season, but they’re the smallest club in the division, and that makes it difficult for them at this level.
I’d be excited to see Hibs back
It’s looking pretty likely that Hibernian will be back in the Ladbrokes Premiership after three years away – and I for one think that’s going to be great for the top-flight.
They’ve got a fabulous stadium, they get big crowds and are packing out Easter Road right now. Neil Lennon has also assembled a very fine team and they are very potent on their day.
So I think they’ll add something special to the league, and I think when they do come back up – whether it’s this season or not – they’ll quickly re-establish themselves as a top-six club in the Premiership.
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