Hearts' goalkeeping chaos, Celtic's north-east torture showpiece, Motherwell piecing themselves together - what Scottish football fans should watch this weekend
Hearts goalkeeping conundrum
Hearts host Hamilton Accies in the Ladbrokes Premiership this weekend in a massive game at the bottom of the table that should also be quite entertaining, mainly because each of the clubs have taken a unique approach to defending for most of this season by not ignoring it completely.
Watching Hearts keeper Joel Pereira play against Celtic in midweek reminded me of the old Billy Connolly bit where he wonders about what you're supposed to do with a daft wee pillow when you're in an airplane heading straight for a mountain: "GO AWAY NASTY FOOTBALL." Of course, the Hearts goalkeeper's penchant for pushing the ball directly back into play so an attacker can easily follow up is only half of what he's good at. The other half is getting out of the way of the football entirely.
The time has surely come where the loanee from Manchester United (seriously, how?) must be told to step aside. In his place will either come Zdenek Zlamal - last seen being criticised by Daniel Stendel, is his first game as Hearts manager, for pushing an opposing striker *into* the path of the ball - or Colin Doyle, who has still to recover from dropping a tame David Turnbull free-kick into the back of the net at Motherwell last February. Incredibly, this could be a case of 'because what you wish for' for Hearts supporters.
Are Motherwell broken?
The social media darlings of Scottish football have started to look a little more pained in their immediate post-match reaction videos of late. A run of five games without victory in all competitions, including four in the league, has seen them drop behind Aberdeen in the table. Seeing as their last victory was against the Dons away in late January, and the Pittodrie club went five games without scoring a goal, this really should be looked upon as a missed chance to assert themselves as truly the third best team in the country.
Now they will welcome St Mirren to Fir Park twice in the space of four days as this weekend's league clash is quickly followed by a Scottish Cup replay. Win both and the season is firmly back on track. However, fail to find victory on Saturday and the pressure will ramp up prior to the rematch. Losing both would be disastrous as a once highly-promising season will verge on disappearing down the toilet.
In order to do avoid such a fate they need to get at least two of their starting midfielders from earlier in the season - Allan Campbell, Liam Donnelly and, especially, Liam Polworth - back in form. Up front it remains to be seen if selling James Scott was a potentially fatal blow to the hopes of finishing best of the rest. Stephen Robinson has largely rotated his front three players this season, mainly because a) he's signed loads and b) not many of them have been that good. He managed to get a tune out of the unit for the most part by keeping them firmly on their toes with the threat of immediate expulsion to the bench if they were rotten, but having Scott as the most impressive and consistent member of the frontline certainly helped.
With Christopher Long out injured this match should also see a first start for Tony Watt. The second best film reviewer in Scottish football is on the 12th club of his career and it's about time he landed in a place where his talents are appreciated, a manager can get the best out of him and he can get some much-needed continuity.
Celtic whipping Aberdeen
"STOP! STOP! HE'S ALREADY DEAD!"
How long before we see this meme appear on Scottish football Twitter on Sunday afternoon? 60 minutes? 70 minutes? Or is that too optimistic for Aberdeen seeing as they were 4-0 down in 44 minutes the last time Celtic visited Pittodrie? Given the champions recent form, Aberdeen being rubbish of late (beating Accies barely counts) and Celtic's eight-game winning streak in the north east, it seems more than likely this one will only be entertaining in a perverse 'viewing-a-trainwreck' sort of way.
St Johnstone's resurgence
Did anyone seriously consider the possibility that St Johnstone could go down? Of course not! They had Tommy Wright in the dugout so sooner or later they were going to move away from the immediate threat of dropping into the second tier. It didn't matter that their defence had an average age of about 15 or that their answer to 'how do we score more goals?' was Stevie May, they were going to get things on track eventually because that's what Wright does. He cannot be put down for good. He's like Michael Myers without the mask and a Northern Irish accent instead - which, come to think of it, is probably scarier.
This weekend they go to Ross County. The Staggies ended a dreadful run of form the previous midweek with a 2-0 victory over high-flying Livingston, but immediately fell back down to earth with a completely listless performance against Hibs at Easter Road. The chances of County winning this upcoming match will probably rest on whether David Wotherspoon and Ali McCann continue with their impression of a Poundland Andrea Pirlo and Gennaro Gattuso for the visitors.
'Hey United, you awake?'
This one will be on our screens tonight as Dundee United travel to Alloa Athletic in the Ladbrokes Championship. Now, the second-tier title race is not particularly interesting. In fact, it was finished before we even got to December. Instead, what's interesting about this game is whether United are fully motivated to continue batting opponents aside like they did earlier in the season, or whether they're content to sleep walk to the title safe in the knowledge they have a 17-point advantage with 13 games to play and no other contender looks capable of getting even close to them. The last two league matches they played, both at Tannadice, one against a relegation-threatened team (Morton) and the other a part-time club (Arbroath), would suggest the latter. Another 1-0 defeat or 1-1 draw in Clackmannanshire and questions will be asked by those in the stands.
It really would be the most Robbie Neilson thing ever to be unpopular and under pressure while leading the table by double digits.
What's on the telly?
Auntie Beeb is spoiling us with not one, but two Friday-night thrillers. BBC Scotland are showing the aforementioned Wasps-Arabs clash, but on BBC Alba, the Tunnock's Caramel Biscuit Wafer Cup thing returns when Partick Thistle host Raith in the semi-finals. Don't worry, your other half will forgive you.
On Sunday, we get not one, not two but THREE games on the big screen. Silence of the Lambs (geddit?) is aired by the Dundee-confusers at Sky Sports at noon, and then you've got some more chocolatey-goodness trophy when Inverness play Rangers Colts at 4.10pm on Alba. If top-flight is more your thing, BT Sport shows Kilmarnock v Hibs at 4.30pm but, BE WARNED, the last time they played at Rugby Park, 120 minutes of 'football' passed without a shot on target, let alone a goal.
If you're like that walking beard and torso on Love Island who thinks Scottish football is "abysmal" and instead supports Newcastle United (irony) then you may wish to have a gander at what's happening south of the border.
Only joking. You definitely shouldn't. It's overrated, plastic, VAR-spoiled, monopolistic guff.