After a couple of away games, Pedro Caixinha will be back in the home dugout this weekend as we play Partick Thistle at Ibrox in a 3pm kick-off (there won’t be many of those left this season!).
We’ll find out in the press conference whether or not any of our injured defenders are available but, the Tuesday training pictures suggested we’ll still be without Clint Hill, Rob Kiernan and Philippe Senderos, and we know Lee Wallace is a few weeks away at least. As such, we should expect the same back four to start the game, with Danny Wilson sporting a new shape to his nose no doubt, after breaking it last weekend. Wilson seems to be enjoying leading the defense in the last couple of games and thinking back to his time as Hearts captain, maybe that responsibility is how we get the best out of him.
With seemingly no changes available in defense, I don’t imagine we’ll see many changes in the side at all. I expect Barrie McKay to come back in for Joe Garner, which will allow us to use an approach/system akin to the way we played against Hamilton and Motherwell at home. Many fans seem to believe Joe Dodoo deserves a start but, he needs to show more than just one good sub appearance to earn that, no matter how poor you think Garner and Martyn Waghorn have been, and he also came into the game at the weekend when it was opening up as an impact sub – it’s a very different prospect starting a game where the opposition are unlikely to give you much space to play in.
Thistle have been in cracking form but, they now have six games left against sides above them in the league and they’ve pretty much achieved their aim for the season. Many will say “they’ll be relaxed, that makes them dangerous” but the players are as likely to go into holiday mode as they are to be inspired, especially with the excuse of not being expected to win any of the games.
The team I expect to start the game is:
Tavernier Bates Wilson Beerman
Hyndman Miller McKay
And I think we’ll win a relatively tight game.
By the time you read this, we should finally have confirmation of all the other post-split fixtures, so the last round of games leading into them are:
Friday 14th – Kilmarnock v Hearts
The home side will be looking to continue some decent form under Lee McCulloch, despite missing out on the top six spot they were desperately chasing. Friday night games seem to throw up strange results quite often (I’m sure stats will show me I’m talking nonsense and it’s just the ones I remember mind you), but it wouldn’t be a surprise to see Hearts lose this one. They got a much-needed victory last weekend against Dundee, but ultimately, you can’t help but feel that Cathro is hanging on until they call time on that experiment and let Levein take charge of the team again. Home win for me, and from our perspective, it’s not really going to have any sort of impact.
Dundee v Hamilton
One of 2 games which will have a real impact on the relegation battle, there’s only one point between the sides with both automatic relegation and the playoff spot a real possibility. Not so long ago, you’d have been sure Dundee were pretty safe, but they’re on a horrible run of form and have been dragged into the battle. Hamilton have had a couple of better results recently and will be looking forward to the split to get a shot at the teams around them. If we’re honest, we hate Hartley more than anyone at Hamilton, so it might be a bit of a laugh to see both Dundee sides in the Championship.
I do think Dundee will win this one though, based on nothing more than a hunch.
Motherwell v Inverness
The bottom two sides on the league clash, with Inverness four points behind Motherwell and in desperate need of a win. With Dundee and Hamilton facing off, Motherwell know that a win would move them at least one spot in the league, and would certainly leave them in a far healthier position with regards relegation. They have the worst goal difference in the league right now, so defeats hurt them even more without that cushion.
Motherwell win is my guess
St. Johnstone v Aberdeen
This is the game we’re most interested in, aside from our own match. The Perth side are ticking along nicely, so the question is really about Aberdeen – was their confidence dented at all last weekend? And from our perspective, which team do we want to win this game?
I’m maybe not the most ambitious, so I still see second as out of our reach. However, a nice win for St. Johnstone here would certainly put some doubt into Aberdeen if we can win against Partick and pull the gap back to six points. They’ll feel they were unlucky last weekend, but I also think it’s fair to say there were a few games they carried luck during their recent good run.
Despite all of that though, were I forced to bet on the outcome, I’d say an away win.
Sunday 16th April – Ross County v Celtic
Celtic will play a weakened side so as to rest some players for next weekend, look vulnerable for about 15 minutes, score the first goal and win the game comfortably, and put some doubt into our fans going into the semi-final.
It’s certainly an interesting week at the bottom of the table, and from our perspective, we’ll see if the Aberdeen win can be built upon, or if the inconsistency we’ve shown all season will rear it’s head again.
Do you agree with the predictions or the team I think will start the game? Tweet any thoughts to @rangersnewsuk – we’ll be happy to hear from you!