11 key Scottish Premiership fixture dates - Old Firm clashes, festive football, top of the Lothians
The opening weekend of the 2020/21 season is scheduled for the first weekend in August and Sky Sports are screening three live games over three days.
To get the league under way, there is a tasty Tayside clash between Dundee United and St Johnstone, both clubs under new management, while Hibs face Kilmarnock at Easter Road and St Mirren welcome Livingston to Paisley.
The big game of the weekend is at Pittodrie. A Saturday 5.30pm kick-off as Aberdeen play Rangers. Celtic face Hamilton on Sunday and the first weekend of the season is finished off on Monday night with live action from Dingwall as Ross County take on Motherwell.
There is an early round of midweek fixtures in matchweek three, starting with Hibs’ trip to Tannadice to play Dundee United. The clubs met in the Scottish Cup earlier this year with the Premiership newboys taking it back to a replay at Easter Road before being defeated.
Interestingly, that clash, as well as Celtic’s trip to face St Mirren will be 6pm kick-offs.
Another fixture of note is the first meeting between Motherwell and Livingston at Fir Park. So far both clubs have retained the majority of their respective squads from last season’s success.
The standout fixture from the round is Hibs’ meeting with Aberdeen on the Sunday at 4.30pm shown on Sky Sports. The duo are expected, by the bookies at least, to be the frontrunners to finish third in the table. An early meeting will add plenty of intrigue and allow either side to put down a marker.
The day before Hamilton welcome Rangers in the weekend’s other televised fixture. Accies haven’t had much joy at home to the Glasgow giants but their win at Ibrox earlier this year was huge in the relegation battle before the shutdown.
The first of two fixturecards which could see all games played on the Friday. Scotland boss Steve Clarke was hopeful for a weekend off for the Premiership to prepare his players for the Uefa 2020 play-off showdown with Israel at Hampden Park, but due to the nature of the football calendar it wasn’t possible. Therefore all games will be played on Friday.
Albeit with a caveat.
Iain Balir, the SPFL’s company secretary and director of operations, explained: “In an ideal world we would have been able to agree to the request from the Scottish FA to postpone our top-flight games on the weekends before the Euro 2020 play-off semi-final with Israel in October and the potential final in Norway or Serbia the following month. The stress on the fixture calendar means we must schedule matches but we have brought them forward to the Friday evening to allow Steve Clarke and his squad as much preparation as possible for the Thursday internationals. There is, however, the prospect that we may require to move some matches to Sunday depending on the progress of clubs in the Europa League.”
On the weekend the lower leagues are due to start, the SPFL have scheduled the first Old Firm game, something which has not gone down well with Stenhousemuir chairman Iain McMenemy. On seeing the fixture list, there was little surprise Celtic v Rangers was in this round of fixtures before they are repeated. It allows for more chance of fans being in attendance.
Not only will there be the pivotal showdown in Glasgow, Hibs fans will be hopeful of a Saturday away day to Dingwall for the Ross County match, while Dundee United and Aberdeen meet in the league for the first time since March 2016.
The second of the Friday fixture cards with potentially excellent clashes. Hibs travel to Pittodrie where their record is far from decent against Aberdeen, while Celtic make the short trip to Motherwell. Fir Park is one of those places where you look to for either of the Old Firm to drop points.
As is the way in the Scottish Premiership, and has been for a number of years, Hamilton are likely to be many supporters and pundits’ favourites for the drop. By the time they face Kilmarnock in the first week in December we will have a good idea if the Accies will once again be fighting for survival.
It will also be easier to form a better opinion of Alex Dyer as Killie boss. He took over from Angelo Alessio but it is this season where he will shape his own team.
Boxing Day games are ones we all look out for as fans. After filling ourselves with food the day before, we do the same on the 26th, but with football and often alcohol.
There are a couple of tasty looking fixtures, not least Hibs’ trip to Ibrox where they have recorded impressive results in recent years. Dundee United v Motherwell is another one which should entertain.
With the winter break shelved, games come thick and fast around the festive period. It will be the fourth in 11 days with a number of local derbies or key fixtures in the Scottish football calendar. The Old Firm will, of course, take centre stage.
Yes, another Old Firm fixture. But beyond that, there could be a pivotal match at the bottom of the table between St Mirren and Hamilton if last season is to go by. Of course, one or both sides could be well clear of the drop zone by this point.
In addition, Hibs face Livingston for the third time. It will be interesting to see which position both sides are in with Livi having proven themselves to be the best of the Lothians this past campaign.
The final round of fixtures before the split.