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SPL ready for a festive cracker

 

Kenny Miller and Mark Wilson will be in actionon Saturday
Rangers welcome fierce rivals Celtic to Ibrox on Saturday
With Christmas falling on Thursday, Scottish players have been granted an extra day to digest all those chipolatas and brussel sprouts.

There will be no Boxing Day fixtures to offer respite from the seasonal over-indulgence but fans won't have too long to wait for their fix of football.

First up on Saturday is the small matter of an Old Firm derby.

Rangers host league leaders Celtic, with Walter Smith's side currently four points behind their fierce rivals.

The honours went to the home side in each of the four meetings last season and Rangers have yet to lose at Ibrox this term.

However, that trend was bucked when Rangers won 4-2 at Celtic Park in August, while Gordon Strachan's side have been strong on their travels, winning seven of their nine away matches so far.

Smith has omitted Kris Boyd from the last five Old Firm clashes but the in-form striker is surely indispensible this time, with 18 goals to his name already.

The visitors will miss the pace and trickery of both Aiden McGeady and Shaun Maloney but they may have unearthed another gem in Kouki Mizuno.

The Japanese winger has taken time to make an impact but capped a fine first start for the club with a goal against Falkirk last weekend.

Aberdeen's recent resurgence will be put to the test when Hearts arrive at Pittodrie.

The Dons were convincing winners at Inverness last week and have been victorious on their last four home outings.

Hearts are riding high on the back of a rock-solid defence, which has only shipped five goals in 10 games.

The Edinburgh side may be rather blunt in attack but they pose a formidable threat from Bruno Aguiar's excellent set-pieces.

Patrick Cregg tackles Scott Robertson
Falkirk face a tough task at Tanandice

Dundee United are also going well and solid home form has been the cornerstone of manager Craig Levein's success.

The Tangerines have only lost twice at Tannadice in 2008 and cause problems for most sides with pace, aggression and an imposing aerial threat.

Falkirk have managed just one away win this term and John Hughes' side have developed a bad habit of losing sloppy goals.

Hibs take on Kilmarnock aiming to consolidate their place in the top six.

A five-game unbeaten run came to an end at Ibrox with Rangers breaking down their stodgy defensive game-plan.

Expect a more adventurous approach from the home side, who have no shortage of good attacking options.

Kilmarnock's form has fluctuated wildly after a solid opening to the season but a win for Jim Jefferies side would close them to within a point of the hosts.

Motherwell and Inverness have both slumped alarmingly of late and it could be a rather tense affair at Fir Park.

Mark McGhee's team have lost their last five since a creditable goalless draw with Rangers.

One goal from their last seven outings tells the whole sorry story.

The visitors are on a four-game losing streak and a once parsimonious defence has leaked eight goals in their last three.

St Mirren have made rapid progress up the table with the three consecutive wins for the first time in the SPL and they will be confident of extending that run against Hamilton.

The Buddies are benefiting from Andy Dorman's return to fitness, with the midfielder catching the eye with some dynamic box-to-box displays.

However, bottom club Accies will be heartened by a fine victory in the Lanarkshire derby, which moved them level on points with the three sides above them.

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