Earlier today the SPFL announced the fixture list for the 2016/17 Scottish football season.
Along with predicting the results for their side - ‘win, win, win, maybe a draw, win, win’ - fans get the chance to plan ahead and salivate over the marquee matches over the course of the campaign.
As it’s Scottish football there have been plenty of negatives from today, with Motherwell, Hamilton and Partick Thistle laying into the SPFL. However, there are also a number of positives as well, mainly that the new football season is only seven weeks away!
Craig Fowler has put together a list of eight fixtures that should excite fans the most.
Hearts v Celtic (6 August)
What a way to kick-off the new season. Even though Celtic remained unbeaten against Hearts in all five games between the sides last term, each contest remained competition well into the second half. The intensity of Tynecastle will be a real baptism of fire for Brendan Rodgers as he takes charge of Celtic in a league match for the first time.
Inverness CT v Ross County (13 August)
In the absence of Dundee v Dundee United and Hearts v Hibs, the Highland derby takes on greater significance within the top flight. Don’t be too surprised to see all three (or even four) games broadcast live across the season. Inverness CT have largely got the better of their rivals in derby matches since County joined them in the top flight, and they’ll need to continue such form as many expect them to struggle under rookie boss Richie Foran.
Celtic v Rangers (10 September)
They say revenge is a dish best served cold, but in football that’s not really the case. Fans want backlash to be immediate; to rise straight back up off the canvas and smack their rivals in the mouth at the next possible opportunity - figuratively speaking, of course. Celtic will certainly fancy their chances of doing just that in the first Old Firm derby of the season, which also serves as the first Old Firm derby for Brendan Rodgers and the first league game between the two rivals in four years.
Motherwell v Hamilton (17 September)
In the absence of the all-Dundee contest, the Lanarkshire derby will likely receive more air time from the broadcasts. If that’s the case then they’ll be sure to screen this particular game as it’s the only stand-out fixture from round six of the league season. Motherwell have managed only two wins in eight since Accies returned to the top flight, though they’ll certainly be favourites for this one.
Aberdeen v Rangers (24 September)
Aberdeen have built up a nice little rivalry with Celtic over the past two years, but it shouldn’t be forgotten that Rangers and the Dons aren’t the best of pals either. Unlike their rivalry with Celtic, Rangers never met Aberdeen in the cups on the route back to the top flight, and the atmosphere in Pittodrie should be electric when they meet in late September.
Aberdeen v Celtic (29 October)
Even if Aberdeen don’t manage to get themselves into another title race, this should still be an interesting contest. The champions lost on both trips to Pittodrie last season.
Hearts v Aberdeen (31 January)
The two sides built up quite a rivalry over their five games last year and, in the absence of Hearts’ usual New Years’ opponents Hibs, the SPFL have wisely pitted them against each other at New Year. Rangers’ hosting Celtic on the same day will get most of the headlines, but don’t be surprised if the better game takes place inside a packed out Tynecastle.
Dundee v Celtic (18 March)
This could be the first ever Scottish football league game to be played abroad, as both clubs are keen on the idea to take a Dundee v Celtic league fixture to the United States. If given the go-ahead by the SPFL and Uefa - the latter of which is likely to nix the idea - then it’ll take place in Philadelphia. Should it occur on this particular date (and not 1 October) then it’ll coincide with St Partick’s Day weekend.