After the fixture list was announced by the SPFL earlier today, we look at nine of the most keenly anticipated matches in the opening months of the new Ladbrokes Premiership season.
Rangers v Hibs (12 Aug)
The second weekend of the season sees the first meeting of the sides since the Scottish Cup final. You must remember it? Hibs won a thrillingly entertaining Scottish Cup final and then supporters had running battles on the pitch. It’s fair to say the game and its aftermath heightened tensions between the clubs and is sure to make the match at Ibrox in mid-August a potential powderkeg fixture.
Hearts v Aberdeen (9 Sep)
Hearts have pencilled in this date as the first in front of the new main stand. Aberdeen closed out the old main stand at Tynecastle with a 2-1 victory and they could be looking to gatecrash the party in similar fashion when Hearts play their first game in front of the brand new McLeod Street structure. Even in September it could potentially be a huge game for Hearts, who travel to Celtic and Rangers and don’t have a single match at Tynecastle prior to Aberdeen’s visit. Even two months away, it already feels like must win for Ian Cathro.
St Johnstone v Hibs (9 Sep)
There’s plenty of room for a real rivalry to develop between the two sides over the next season or so. There’s the two spiky Northern Irish managers, the Danny Swanson departure from one side to the other, the claims from Hibs that they’re shooting for a top three finish, and St Johnstone’s perpetual nobody-believes-in-us state of mind. It’s got a lot going for it. Hibs developed a good rivalry with Falkirk over the past three seasons. With the Bairns no longer in the same league, St Johnstone, with a similar penchant for sh***housing tactics, could easily take their place.
Rangers v Celtic (23 Sep)
The first Old Firm derby of the season. If they haven’t already slipped on a banana skin or two and fallen flat on their face, Rangers will be out to prove they can hang with their Glasgow rivals in the title race. Or at the very least, gain some revenge for the 5-1 defeat the last time the teams met at Ibrox. Or, at the very, very least... get a draw?
Hamilton v Motherwell (14 Oct)
Though the Edinburgh derby returned, the league lost another big derby (typically) at the other end of the table when Inverness CT lost their place in the top flight. Still without the Dundee derby, the Lanarkshire battle between Hamilton and Motherwell takes on extra significance, especially as both sides are being tipped to battle relegation once again.
Rangers v Aberdeen (21 Oct)
Having broken a 26-year wait for a victory at Ibrox, Aberdeen will be out to repeat the feat in the first meeting between sides in the 2017/18 campaign. The Dons will also start the season looking to silence the doubters who believe they’ve had their team in the top two of Scottish football, and that Pedro Caixinha’s summer spending, coupled with the loss of Niall McGinn and Jonny Hayes from Pittodrie, will be enough to re-establish the status quo.
Aberdeen v Celtic (25 Oct)
Should Celtic avoid defeat, this match would represent the opportunity to make it 50 Ladbrokes Premiership games unbeaten. It’s also the first meeting between the clubs since that epic Scottish Cup final.
Hibs v Hearts (25 Oct)
Having the first Edinburgh derby so late in the season and on a midweek is a strange one, but it should still be a great spectacle regardless, as Hibs look to extend the unbeaten streak they currently hold over their rivals. The form of each side leading up to the fixture will add an extra layer of intrigue. How will Hibs adapt to the top flight? Will Ian Cathro still be under heavy pressure? Will Cathro still be in a job? Hibs may wish this game had been scheduled for earlier in the campaign.
Partick Thistle v St Johnstone (28 Oct)
Partick Thistle want to be the next St Johnstone: a small club in relation to the Scottish top flight that constantly punch above their weight and finish in the top half. St Johnstone, facing the toughest top six battle in years, want to ensure that does not happen. A win at the home of the young pretender should go a long way to showing Thistle they are nothing but a flash in the top six pan.