The Old Firm are the only Premiership sides left standing in the Scottish Cup following last weekend’s quarter-finals, but attention for all turns to the top flight again on Saturday.
Having completed a league and cup double over Heart of Midlothian, leaders Celtic this time look to emphasise Glasgow’s dominance over Edinburgh as they host a Hibernian side who were eased aside by second-top Rangers last midweek.
But there’s plenty of talking points elsewhere too…
Game of the day – Aberdeen v Heart of Midlothian
When Aberdeen and Hearts last met on 18 January at Tynecastle, the Dons suffered a 5-0 humbling that turned out to be the first of three successive humiliations on the road and led to manager Jim Goodwin being dispatched back down the A90.
That emphatic victory established a nine-point cushion for Robbie Neilson’s side over the fifth-top visitors – and the seven-point gap between Hearts and Livingston in fourth had many suggesting the race to finish third was all but over.
However, a fourth win in six outings for Aberdeen under Barry Robson would not only enhance the interim manager’s prospects of keeping the job permanently but narrow that points difference down to four.
With Celtic strong favourites against Hibs to win their opening 15 home league matches for only a second time in the club’s history, chances are it would also lift Aberdeen above the Easter Road side into fourth.
While Robson’s side are seeking a third Pittodrie win on the trot, Hearts arrive in the Granite City having lost their latest two on the road – and conceding three goals to Celtic both home and away.
Another Hearts defeat would reignite the race for third – and recent history is certainly stacked against the visitors. The Edinburgh side have not won in nine visits to Pittodrie since a 1-0 success in May 2016 – and have lost the most recent six, conceding two or more goals in each, including a 2-0 reverse in October.
Player to watch – Alfredo Morelos
While Aberdeen’s Bojan Miovski will be aiming to stay out in front as the Premiership’s top scorer in home games and Celtic’s Kyogo Furuhashi has become the first player to reach the 20-goal league mark overall since Odsonne Edouard, the spotlight at Fir Park will be on a striker whose star is fading fast.
Even before helping Rangers win the title under Steven Gerrard, Alfredo Morelos was being touted as the Premiership’s next multi-million pound export.
However, while the aforementioned Edouard joined Crystal Palace for £14m from Celtic in August 2021, the Colombia international’s influence – and market value – started to wane.
Question marks about Morelos’ discipline were replaced under Giovanni van Bronckhorst by doubts about his attitude and fitness. Now the Dutchman’s successor, Michael Beale, has consigned the 26-year-old to the bench for three successive matches since the League Cup final defeat by Celtic.
Beale this week defended Morelos’ work-rate as he downplayed “misconceptions” about the striker, but with the Colombian out of contract this summer, he also hinted that he had no plans to talk to the player about a new deal until the end of the season.
Both Beale and Morelos have dismissed suggestions the latter has already signed a pre-contract agreement with Sevilla.
However, should he fail to improve on half an hour’s action over three games, the chances of the striker extending his six-year spell at Ibrox appear to be slim.
Manager in the spotlight – Derek McInnes
Having been knocked out the Scottish Cup by second-tier Inverness Caledonian Thistle on top of sitting second bottom of the league table, Kilmarnock have been feeling the wrath of their fans this week.
Derek McInnes has credit in the bank for leading his side to the Championship title and promotion in his first season in charge – and been handed some latitude by the fact he had been unable to greatly strengthen a squad built to win the second tier.
However, without a win in four outings, losing three of them, his side could do without any grumblings growing among the home support as they return to the venue where they have won a league high of 92% of their points this season.
Visiting St Johnstone, though, have earned 61% of their Premiership points this campaign away from home – also a league high – and have won five of their last six meetings with Kilmarnock.
Expect goals considering the two sides have the worst clean-sheet records in the division, but McInnes will not mind if that continues as long his side can repeat the one exception to that losing run against the Perth side – October’s 2-1 victory at Rugby Park – and get dissenting fans back onside.