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Hearts v Celtic
Hearts began the campaign in encouraging fashion with two wins from three unbeaten games, but since then they’ve amassed a poor W3-D1-L10 record across all competitions, culminating in four defeats and a draw from their five most recent outings. In fact, they’ve lost home games to Rangers (4-0) and Fiorentina (3-0) during these last five matches, as well as taking another pummelling on the road to the Italian outfit (5-1), while their last three at home also includes a bruising 4-0 defeat to Istanbul Basaksehir.
That spells bad news for Robbie Neilson’s side, as their visitors appear to have fully recovered from a little wobble. Celtic had gone a disappointing W2-D1-L4 over a period of five weeks, though this included a pair of defeats to Leipzig and another to Real Madrid in Europe, and they’ve since produced 6-1 and 4-0 routs of Hibernian and Motherwell respectively.
An extensive injury list amid a hectic schedule certainly hasn’t aided Hearts this season, with the defence in particular reduced in recent weeks. Robbie Neilson could potentially have one or two back this week, including Craig Halkett, but it’s hard to overlook Celtic for a comfortable win here. Indeed, the Hoops have won 13 of the last 15 meetings and bagged 40 goals along the way.
CELTIC –1 HANDICAP
Rangers v Livingston
Rangers need to find their spark and although they kept a rare clean sheet hosting Championship outfit Dundee in the League Cup midweek, the lack of creativity in the final third was alarming. However, it is worth noting that excluding matches in Europe or with Celtic, where they’ve taken some real beatings, they’ve won 10 of 11 unbeaten matches this season as they’re still delivering against weaker sides.
A hard-fought win could be on the cards then and Livingston will certainly aim to keep proceedings tight. There’s been a maximum of three goals in all but one of Livingston’s past 15 league games, with nine of these featuring no more than two strikes, so we wouldn’t expect this clash to see too much goal-mouth action.
Rangers have won 13 of the last 14 head-to-heads with Livingston, drawing the other, but only two of these games contained four goals as the Gers won 3-1 on both occasions. Of the seven meetings at Ibrox over this spell, Rangers and under 3.5 goals landed six times, and we’d expect that to be the case once again.
11 of Livingston’s 13 league defeats since December 2021 have finished either 1-0, 2-0 or 2-1, and they enter this encounter having lost their last three on the road. Given that Rangers have won 16 of 18 home league games under Giovanni van Bronckhorst, only losing to Celtic, they should be able to deliver the required result even if they’re not firing on all cylinders at present.
RANGERS TO WIN AND UNDER 3.5 GOALS
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