SPL Preview 2&3/2/11

Jordan McCalum reports…

With the Scottish Cup 5th round taking place this weekend, there is a full SPL card tonight and tomorrow, giving managers who were active on deadline day a chance to blood their new players straight away.

Aberdeen v Celtic

Starting with tonight’s game at Pittodrie as Aberdeen host Celtic. This is the third time these two sides have played each in 10 days with Pittodrie the third venue. Neil Lennon’s attempt to beat the deadline and bring in a centre half proved fruitless and with Thomas Rogne picking up a groin strain on Saturday; Lennon will forced to go with a defensive pairing of Mulgrew and Mark Wilson with Effrain Juarez expected to come in a right back. As Celtic recorded an emphatic victory in the semi final against Aberdeen, it is likely that enforced change will be the only chance to the Celtic side.

Craig Brown added to his squad last night by bringing in former Rangers Steven Smith who goes straight into the team. Brown missed out on Smith’s teammate Stephen Hughes as well as Blackburn midfielder Jason Lowe. Nick Blackman was cup-tied at the weekend but comes back in tonight but Vujadinovic is injured.

Debut bhoy was oustanding at the weekend

St Johnstone v Hamilton

Tonights other match involves St Johnstone and Hamilton Accies at McDiarmid Park. Both managers were active last night as Billy Reid bolstered his attack by bringing in Tom Elliot who was released by Leeds United. Derek McInnes brought in Hearts winger Arvydas Novikovas on loan and both players go straight in their respective squads.

Both teams have been on good form of late as Saints defeat to Hearts at the weekend was their only deafeat in four matches while Accies have closed the gap between themselves and Hibernian at the bottom of the league and boast two games in hand over their relagation rivals. This should be a tight game in Perth and a draw could be on the cards.

Rangers v Hearts

Contoversial Diouf has joined Rangers until the end of the season

Rangers and Hearts are in action tomorrow at Ibrox with both teams hoping to close the gap on leaders Celtic.

Walter Smith has had a busy few days. First of all his side beat Motherwell at Hampden before he concluded the deal to bring Northern Ireland’s all time top scorer David Healy on loan from Sunderland. He also beat the deadline yesterday to bring in young Arsenal defender Kyle Bartley and Blackburn forward El-Hadji Diouf on loan deals. Diouf’s career has been marred with controversy; Celtic fans will remember him

for spitting at them in a game against Liverpool in 2003. More recently, QPR boss Neil Warnock branded him a “sewer rat” after breaking Scotland cap Jamie Mackie’s leg. However, Smith will not care about any of that if he produces the goods; starting at Ibrox tomorrow.

Motherwell v Kimarnock

Another big game tomorrow is at Fir Park between Motherwell and Kilmarnock and while McCall was unable to add to his squad as he would have liked; Mixu Paatelainen had one of the busiest days of his managerial career! He started by releasing Alan Combe, Danny Invincibile and Graeme Owens before bringing in Scott Evans on a 2 and a half year deal and Kieran Agard on loan from Everton. Wigan won the race to land Conor Sammon for £600 000 and could rise to £1 million if they avoid the drop. He will be a big miss for the Ayrshire side but Paatelainen will be happy that playmaker Eremenko will be around for the rest of the season.

Rui Miguel is expected to fill Sammon's boots

With Killie losing their main goal threat and ‘Well missing out on targets including Gavin Rae; this should be a tight game.

Hibs v St Mirren

Struggling Hibernian host St Mirren in a basement battle. Colin Calderwood added goalkeeper Jacub Divis and targetman Akpo Sodje to his squad in the hope that they can help turn Hibs around. With just 2 wins in 15 matches, Hibs are in a periless position so an upturn in fortnes will be needed quickly, making the match against St Mirrren vitally important. Danny Lennon confirmed early doors yesterday that their would be no movement in or out so he will be hoping the side that he has built and climb the table and the Buddies must be confident going into this game.

ICT v Dundee United

Dundee United travel to the Tulloch Caledonian with the same squad they have had all season to face Inverness CT. Terry Butcher has bolstered his defence by moving quickly to bring in Chris Hogg just hours after he was released by Hibernian. However, the best news for Terry Butcher is that top scorer Adam Rooney is still at the club despite interest from a host of clubs. United have not been beaten in 10 and this fixture has thrown up exciting matches already this season so it should be a good game up in Inverness.

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