SPFL standouts: key issues this weekend, including Hearts v Celtic, Aberdeen demise and Dundee United danger

Ahead of a busy SPFL programme as all four leagues turn towards the home straight, Alan Pattullo selects five key talking points

St Mirren v Aberdeen

Aberdeen have not won a league match under Neil Warnock in five attempts. The (short) honeymoon is over, as too seems to be any hope of a new manager uplift. High on the list of places their fans might wish not to be going this weekend is St Mirren, who destroyed them 3-0 at Pittodrie at the end of last year. Warnock has been forced into making some biting criticism of players he is relying on to provide this potential last assignment with the happy ending he craves. All eyes on Paisley, the first of a run of three tough away league games for an Aberdeen side being dragged towards the relegation danger area.

Hearts v Celtic

The expression on Richard Jensen's face says it all for Aberdeen - they badly need a result in Paisley.The expression on Richard Jensen's face says it all for Aberdeen - they badly need a result in Paisley.
The expression on Richard Jensen's face says it all for Aberdeen - they badly need a result in Paisley.

This fixture will never fail to catch the eye, more so this weekend when there’s so much riding on it. If Rangers have collected maximum points the previous afternoon v Motherwell then the pressure will be back on Brendan Rodgers’ side although a fire does appear to have been lit under their title hopes after the 7-1 win over Dundee in midweek. As for Hearts, a tough week can end on a high. Memories of a startling 4-0 home win seven years ago still remain vivid, as of course does a rather more recent victory at Parkhead in December.

Dundee v Kilmarnock

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Kilmarnock do not lose many games. Indeed, the only team against whom they've lost going back to the start of December are Rangers, twice. The last time was in midweek when they put up a good fight but went down 2-1 to the Ibrox side. Tony Docherty was meanwhile enduring the loneliest experience of his managerial career so far as he watched Dundee go seven goals behind at Celtic Park, with still half an hour to play. Dundee recovered to an extent, scoring to make it 7-1. Their top six ambitions might rely on keeping things tighter today and certainly avoid the start they made against the same opponents in the Scottish Cup at Rugby Park in January, when they lost two goals in the opening three minutes. The latest instalment of Derek McInnes v his former assistant is set to be fascinating.

Partick Thistle v Dundee United

Jim Goodwin has been in the Dundee United hotseat for a year now - and the pressure is on.Jim Goodwin has been in the Dundee United hotseat for a year now - and the pressure is on.
Jim Goodwin has been in the Dundee United hotseat for a year now - and the pressure is on.

Under pressure manager Jim Goodwin has just marked one year in the post of Dundee United manager, although there has been little celebrating to date. Last season’s relegation wasn’t on him necessarily but failure to come back up will be his responsibility and his alone. United fans will feel returning to the Premiership as league winners is non-negotiable. The team need to get their title bid back on track. The next five days will reveal a lot to that end, with Firhill followed by a trip to face in-form Morton on Tuesday. In form isn't a phrase that can be used to describe Thistle at present...

Clyde v Elgin City

What was the most remarkable scoreline last weekend in the SPFL? Rangers 5 Hearts 0? Nope. Few, make that no one, saw Stenhousemuir 1 Clyde 6 coming. It was reaching a stage of when rather than if Clyde would have to fight for their lives in the Pyramid play-off. But maybe not now. Ian McCall won’t want to rely on coming out on top in such a nerve-jangling contest to maintain Clyde’s place in senior football. Now five points behind second bottom Stranraer, today’s 'home' clash offers the chance to reel in eighth-placed Elgin City, who are unbeaten in their last three.

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