Surprising no one, the Old Firm squads take the top two positions at the turn of the year. Celtic hold a slight advantage on Rangers today, but that could easily evaporate quickly as Rangers hold two games in hand—against the bottom two squads in the league. Still, I favor Celtic for the title based on the fact that Rangers will run into some serious schedule congestion. They will have at least three matches to make up by the time the SPL splits for its final five matches (an idea so convoluted I will leave it for another time). Because of these rescheduled matches and possible European fixtures, Rangers could face double the matches that Celtic does in March, leaving them spent after the split.
The real story of the Scottish season so far is that three teams are still in European competition past Christmas. Celtic had their famous win against AC Milan at Parkhead propel them into the knockout rounds of the Champions League, where they will lose to
Last week, this part of the article would have been about the surprising play of Motherwell and lauding their 3rd place standing. That, of course, changes with the death of captain Phil O’Donnell. I conceive of no way that they will be able to maintain their pre-holiday form when dealing with such a tragedy. They will, emotionally, be everyone’s second-choice-support team, if not first, but will probably struggle to pull off a top six place before the split.
Now to address the split. The SPL season goes through three rounds of play—each team gets 33 matches. After the three rounds, the top six squads go into what is effectively a championship round robin, while the bottom six do the same for relegation. A team with a top six slot at the split cannot be surpassed in the table by a bottom six team. This leads to interesting final season tables where the 7th place squad often has more points than the 6th place finisher.
I get into all of this because currently the 4th through 8th teams are only separated by a point. Dundee United,
Hearts—that Lithuanian revolution is never going to pay off, is it? They sit 10th and are on horrible form, having pulled one point out of their last six matches. They and
That spot is undoubtedly going to
In other divisions, Dundee and Hamilton Academicals are fighting for the lone promotion spot to the Premier League, five squads have a chance to make it out of the Second Division (one automatic and one playoff), while