Celtic can reclaim top spot by stealing Kilmarnock’s scalp
Celtic, odds-on favourites at 3/10 with Coral to triumph, will likely arrive at Rugby Park in a bullish mood, after being denied the chance to practice on Kilmarnock’s new plastic pitch.
This clash will be the Bhoys’ first outing on Killie’s home turf since the synthetic surface was laid in summer, and the Glaswegian giants had hoped for a sneak preview.
The Scottish champions were given short shrift, however, which should make for a feisty atmosphere in East Ayrshire.
Kilmarnock may not have displayed sporting behaviour ahead of their duel with Celtic, but the home team have good reason to keep the Bhoys at bay, having lost all six of their last battles with the visitors.
Killie will be aiming to take any available advantage against a side who have beaten them an incredible 144 times in the league.
Ronny Deila’s team triumphed 2-0 in the reverse fixture earlier this term and are 5/1 to repeat that scoreline again on their travels.
Manchester City-owned attacker John Guidetti was on target last time these two teams met and is 10/3 to draw first blood once again. The Sweden striker has struck 11 times in 17 outings for the Bhoys, also contributing six assists.
The 22-year-old’s form will be key if Celtic are to break the deadlock, especially in the expected absence of strike partner Anthony Stokes.
This means one of Stefan Scepovic or Leigh Griffiths will be tasked with taking his place up top. Both are 7/2 to score last, but Serbia centre forward Scepovic could get the nod after scoring against Kilmarnock earlier this season.
Celtic have won just one of their past four games across all competitions, with defeat to Dundee United and a draw against Ross County proving costly, as they lost their cushion at the top of the league table.
Killie, meanwhile, come into this clash on the back of two triumphs on the trot and are available at an excellent value 8/1 to steal a surprise three points.
The hosts may be brimming with confidence after successive victories, but will be without midfielder and recent goal hero Craig Slater, who is suspended after seeing red last time out.
Allan Johnston will be relying on front man Josh Magennis (7/2 to score anytime), who has provided three goals and three assists so far this season, and set piece specialist Alexei Ermenko (11/2) to threaten Celtic’s backline.
The Bhoys should still have too much for the home team, however, and are evens to shake off their festive fixture hangover and win to nil.