SPL Preview 5&6/03/2011

Jordan McCallum reports…

We will start with the match at Celtic Park tomorrow between Celtic and Hamilton. Johan Mjallby and Alan Thompson will be in the dugout with news coming out of Hampden on Thursday night that Neil Lennon has had his touchline ban reduced to 4 matches and Hamilton’s visit tomorrow will be the first game of his ban.

The Celtic gaffer will take his seat in the Main Stand as he begins ban

The Hoops will be on a high after defeating rivals Rangers to book their place in the quarter finals of the Scottish Cup. However, Celtic have dropped points after both their previous Old Firm matches so it will be interesting to see how they go about their business tomorrow. Fraser Forster and Joe Ledley are available after serving their bans but Lennon may be inclined to go with the same side that beat Rangers on Wednesday night. Billy Reid has no new injury worries but if form is anything to go by; this should be a routine victory for Celtic.

Dundee United take on Aberdeen at Tannadice in the top six battle. Late goals from Prince Buaben and Robertson gave United a 2-0 victory over Inverness at put Peter Houston’s men in pole position to land the top 6 spot. Captain Jon Daly remains out so Andis Shala will continue to lead the line along with David Goodwillie. Craig Brown is still without Darren Mackie but other than that a full squad to choose from. The return of fit again Sone Aluko has coincided with an upturn in for and Brown will still be confident about his sides top 6 chances.

St Johnstone play on form Hibernian; neither side has given up on a top 6 finish, although both teams only have an outside chance. Derek McInnes will be without stopper Michael Duberry as the big defender sustained an injury in his side’s 4-0 defeat to Rangers last weekend. Former Kilmarnock star Danny Invincibile is in the squad although it is likely Colin Samuel and youngster Steven May will lead the line for the Saints. Hibernian are bidding to make it 6 wins on the bounce and former Bolton star Ricardo Vaz-Te could make his first start. However, with strikers Derek Riordan and Akipo Sodje getting on the scoresheet in midweek and the midfield performing well as a unit; Colin Calderwood will not want to tinker with his side too much.

Third play fourth as Hearts take on Kilmarnock. The last time these 2 sides met at Tynecastle it was Mixu Paatelainen’s men who ran out 3-0 winners. I suspect the Ayrshiremen will not have it all their own way tomorrow, with Hearts looking to cement third spot. Kilmarnock youngster William Gros scored one and set up one in his first Killie start in last weekend’s victory over St Mirren. He is likely to keep his place which will resign Rui Miguel and Keiran Agard to the bench. Alexei Eremenko produced a candidate for goal of the season the last two sides met in Edinburgh so we will see if tomorrow’s match is blessed with a goal that could rival that one.

Inverness host Motherwell at the Caledonian Tulloch stadium. Terry Butcher will be hoping his side can recapture their early season form as they bid for a top 6 finish. The onus will be on Adam Rooney and Ritchie Foran to fire the goals for the Highlanders. Motherwell welcome back skipper Stephen Craigan from suspension, but Stuart McCall faces a headache in deciding who to take out of the rearguard that kept out Celtic last weekend. The Motherwell gaffer will restore his favoured 4-4-2 formation which will see Franny Jeffers return to the starting line-up.

Sunday’s game features St Mirren and Rangers. The side will resort to a 4-5-1 formation with Michael Higdon leading the line. There is never really a good time to take on the champions, but after their disappointing result and performance against Celtic in midweek, Danny Lennon’s men will be hopeful of causing an upset. Walter Smith will be without Kirk Broadfoot, Lee McCulloch, Steven Naismith and Jamie Ness. The Rangers manager will hand late fitness tests to Vladimir Weiss, Nikica Jelavic and Kyle Lafferty. Sasa Papac is also struggling as he was stretchered of on Wednesday after taking the brunt of Mark Wilson’s drive. Red card villans Steven Whittaker, Madjid Bougherra and El-Hadji Diouf are all available for Sunday’s encounter as their suspensions only apply to the Scottish Cup. Rangers could go top of the league should they win their 2 games in hand so they will be looking to bounce back from their defeat to Celtic to keep the pressure on Celtic.

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