Champagne on Ice… For Now

It’s the middle of March and technically we could win the league this weekend.

We won’t though.

After dropping two points last weekend, we still require six points to mathematically end Aberdeen’s title challenge. As the only team who can still catch us, we therefore need Aberdeen to lose on Saturday and then for us to beat Dundee on Sunday. That’s the only combination of results that will allow us to clinch the title.

While we’re more than capable of beating Dundee, although that won’t be easy if the first two games against them this season are anything to go on, the chances of Aberdeen losing seem pretty slim indeed.

Aberdeen have won each of their last three home games 1-0. They’ve won each of their last seven home league games, and in that time they’ve even won a home Scottish Cup game. Indeed, Aberdeen are almost invincible at home. They’ve only drawn three league matches up at Pittodrie, and only one team has managed to actually beat them at home all season.

And that was us of course.

Now, of the three drawn league games, one of those was their opponents this weekend – Hearts. But then that’s one of Hearts better results away from home this season. They’ve lost their last two away games, and indeed they’ve only actually won one of the last eleven games away from Tynecastle. They’ve won just three league games away from home, and across all competitions it’s still only four away wins.

So basically we need a team who usually win at home to lose to a team who usually lose away from home. Put it another way, we need the form book to be thrown out of the window to have any chance of winning the title at Dens Park.

Regardless of what happens at Pittodrie, we’ll still want to go out and get those three points. Assuming Aberdeen don’t lose, that would give us the chance to clinch the title at Tynecastle after the international break, and who wouldn’t want to win it there?

Well, personally, I always preferred winning it in front of our own fans, but Tynecastle would do nicely too!

But as I said earlier, beating Dundee will be no easy task. The last time we played them was part of that eight game winning run in December, when Leigh Griffiths fired in a free kick on the stroke of half-time and Nir Bitton doubled our lead just before the hour mark. But when Marcus Haber pulled one back midway through the second half, we lived on our luck a bit when Faissal El Bakhtaoui blew a late chance to equalise.

See, this is what I meant earlier in the week when I said that our opponents last weekend didn’t really do all that much different from the rest of the league. We’ve had tight games at Celtic Park already this season. Indeed, that Dundee game came just days after Hamilton had also blown a late chance of an equaliser. So the only real difference last weekend is that Clint Hill didn’t blow it.

Well actually he did, but Bobby Madden let him away with it.

Our last trip up to Dens Park also came just before an international break. Back at the start of October, we dominated a goalless first half with Scott Sinclair twice being denied by Scott Bain. Scott Brown got the only goal of the game just after the break, and it was left to Bain to frustrate us by keeping the score down in a game where Dundee didn’t really threaten.

Of course, with just five games to go until the league split, Dundee are part of the bottom seven that are all simultaneously chasing the top six and trying to avoid relegation. Whoever occupies that sixth place after game thirty three will be the luckiest team in Scotland because that’s changing on an almost weekly basis at the moment and yet it will mean guaranteed top flight football for that team. Not to mention five final fixtures of the season against the more glamorous teams in the league.

Dundee are currently three points off that sixth place. And as if to illustrate the point, they’re also seven clear of Inverness who are still bottom. Whether they’re still bottom by the time we kick off remains to be seen of course, they’re only a point behind Hamilton after all.

Paul Hartley’s men have been quite good at frustrating us in the two previous games, and they’ll no doubt do similar this time too. In recent weeks we’ve seen teams like so called Rangers, St Mirren, Hamilton and Motherwell do likewise, and of course the referees have played their part by turning a blind eye when required too.

Incidentally, this week we’ve got Willie Collum. He could quite easily turn a blind eye and still give a penalty.

Perhaps most crucially though, we’ll be looking to bounce back from a disappointing performance. We haven’t often dropped points this season – just the twice in fact. It’s an unusual occurrence, and one you would imagine we would be unwilling to repeat.

You would have to think that we won’t have just so many players who aren’t quite at their best. Stuart Armstrong will be buzzing from his Scotland call up, but he was one of the few who didn’t really need boosting after last weekend. James Forrest should have another week of fitness after his most recent knock, and maybe even Tom Rogic could return to the squad after being spotted doing a fitness test before last Sunday’s game.

I’m not sure I’d rush him back just yet though. I’d much rather focus on getting him ready for the Scottish Cup semi final.

Maybe we’ll get another sighting of Eboue Kouassi though. He wasn’t thrown into the game last week, probably out of fear that he’d put in another tackle like he did in the St Mirren game. Nothing wrong with that, but it was hard enough to announce himself to Scottish Football and you’d half expect the referee to have done something different had it been a blue jersey and not a black and white one. Well, any excuse will do.

As far as the records go, well we won’t now beat the 2003/04 team on one aspect. The winning streak may have been halted three games shy of their league record, but the unbeaten run continues and will hopefully continue for as long as possible.

The title might not come our way this weekend, but as long as we do our job it’s ours for the clinching next time.

Krys (Twitter @krys1888)

This Post Has 1 Comment

  1. Derek says:

    I don’t want to win the league this weekend. I want Aberdeen to keep winning and keep sevco in third.
    We’ll win it next week at swinecastle. That will be nice and complete.
    Open up the season at swinecaste and clinch the season at swinecastle.

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