Scottish Premiership top six race: Who will miss out from Hibs, Dundee Utd, Ross County, Aberdeen, St Mirren, Livingston and Motherwell?

There is plenty within Scottish football which splits opinion. None more so than the split in the Premiership.

There are those naysayers who believe such a mechanism makes a mockery of the country’s top-flight and even more so this season as seven teams who are separated by four points chase three spots with two games to go.

Teams are going to miss out on the chance to still qualify for Europe, they groan. Teams in the bottom six can finish on more points than the top six, they whine.

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It adds an extra layer of excitement and with two rounds of fixtures remaining after the international break we look at the current state of affairs and try to predict how it will finish.

Dundee United landed a huge blow on St Mirren. (Photo by Ross MacDonald / SNS Group)

Dundee United

The scenes which greeted Marc McNulty's very late winner for Tam Courts’ men at St Mirren before the break were jubilant. It was a huge goal in the context of the race for the top six. It put United in the driving seat to land one of the spots.

That confidence shone through when the club announced ticket details for the upcoming Dundee derby at Tannadice. A tweet read “what could be the final Dundee Derby of the season!” Home tickets are now sold out.

They are a different team when the likes of Tony Watt and Dylan Levitt are fit with Ilmari Niskanen providing thrust from wide. Defensively they don’t give up much either. They go to Hibs next knowing a win will secure a place in the top half but with Dundee as their other opponents it would be a huge surprise if they dropped lower than sixth.

Aberdeen secured an important win over Hibs. (Photo by Craig Foy / SNS Group)

Predicted finish: Hibs (draw), Dundee (win) – Points: 43

Hibs

Despite the fact they are battling to finish fourth and for a place in the Scottish Cup final, there is the sense that it is about getting to the summer when Maloney can put his own stamp on the team. The team are not playing in the image of their new manager, or at least his idea of how he wants his team to play.

They still have quality in the team with Chris Cadden impressing on the right, Sylvester Jasper a mercurial talent and Elias Melkersen making an encouraging impact in the final third. However, they are struggling to create chances and score goals on a regular basis and have a tough run-in.

Predicted finish: Dundee United (draw), Hearts (loss) – Points: 38

Livingston

David Martindale’s side have come a long way since the start of the season. A number of factors contributed to one win in their first eight league games. They’ve now got a settled side with one of the best midfield trios outside the top three with Stephane Omeonga, Jason Holt and Scott Pittman complementing one another.

They've lost the last two against Celtic and Hearts but have an encouraging run-in. And they are a team that can score goals with different threats. They were without top scorer Bruce Anderson at Tynecastle Park but Sebastian Soto looked good off the bench. Joel Nouble and Alan Forrest offer different but dangerous qualities from wide positions.

Predicted finish: St Johnstone (draw), Motherwell (win) – Points: 41

Ross County

The Staggies are similar to Livingston in that they have grown into the season. Under Malky Mackay they have a very good manager and one who didn't panic after the slow start. Even as they struggled to win games they were competitive and put in good performances.

Now there is a better balance to the side. They are capable of conceding goals but equally they are a dangerous attacking outfit, especially with Joseph Hungbo and Regan Charles-Cook flanking Jordan White. It makes them a team who can pounce and expose sides on the counter-attack. Games against Aberdeen and Hearts may just suit them but keeping it tighter at the back will be key.

Predicted finish: Hearts (draw), Aberdeen (draw) – Points: 38

Motherwell

The Steelmen are in a very difficult period at the moment. They haven't won in the league since Boxing Day and have amassed just five points from 33. The big red flag came at Fir Park against Dundee when they dropped two points to the side propping up the league. Another was dropped at St Johnstone before the break, losing to an injury-time strike from Callum Hendry despite having been ahead early on.

Without Tony Watt they have lost a key threat and a lot of responsibility lies on the shoulders of Kevin van Veen. Motherwell had just two shots from inside the box at McDiarmid Park. They face two of the sides around them in the league but it is hard to see them getting out of their rut in enough time.

Predicted finish: St Mirren (loss), Livingston (loss) – Points: 36

St Mirren

If the Buddies miss out on the top six for the second season running it is hard to look past Jim Goodwin’s move to Aberdeen as the key reason. St Mirren were going through their best run of the season when he was snapped up by the Dons. New boss Stephen Robinson has struggled to replicate that form since arriving from Morecambe.

Robinson has dabbled with a back four and a back five but nothing has quite worked and a red card and concession of a 96th minute goal last Saturday suggested the top six and St Mirren just weren’t going to be having missed out on the 33rd game last season. The match at Fir Park this Saturday is going to be huge for Robinson for a number of reasons.

Predicted finish: Motherwell (win), Rangers (loss) – Points: 39

Aberdeen

There may have been the smallest part of Jim Goodwin somewhat relieved that Aberdeen did not have a Scottish Cup quarter-final for it allowed him to work with his new team for nearly two weeks on the training ground without the distraction of a game. It also allowed him to get Andy Considine and Marley Watkins back.

The latter showed his importance when fit off the bench in the crucial win over Hibs. In the same game the midfield trio of Lewis Ferguson, Ross McCorie and the increasingly impressive Connor Barron demonstrated what the new manager wants from his team. With two very winnable games, the top six and a possible fourth-place finish is not unrealistic.

Predicted finish: Dundee (win), Ross County (draw) – Points: 39

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