HIBERNIAN v PARTICK THISTLE
Newly promoted Hibernian have made some decent signings in the close season and kick off their Premiership campaign at home to Partick Thistle looking to hit the ground running.
The Hibees’ League Cup form has been goal-laden, however the telling thing is that when they came up against a decent outfit in Ross County they were held to a 0-0 draw before losing on penalties. Some players, most notably Steven Whittaker, have made noises about the side challenging for second place but that doesn’t seem overly realistic from where I’m sitting.
New boys Whittaker, Efe Ambrose, Simon Murray and Danny Swanson will all be looking for starts and have given Neil Lennon the right kind of selection headache.
It must be remembered that the Jags had a very good campaign last season all things considered and do not come here expecting to be rolled over.
They have an excellent ‘keeper in Tomas Cerny who will be called into action in Leith no doubt on several occasions, though he is capable of repelling the Hibs attack while the likes of Chris Erskine are fancied to do some damage at the other end.
Head To Head
The sides have met fully 216 times; Hibs winning 95, Partick 73 and with 48 draws. They last met in May 2014 when playing out a 1-1 draw at Easter Road with nothing much between the clubs at all that season, their aggregate score over four games being Hibernian 4-5 Partick.
A lot has changed at both clubs since they last met, though they are once again expected to fill places in very similar parts of the league and this game may well be a close affair.
The home side are favourites across the board as you would imagine at a standout 5/6 with Paddy Power, Ladbrokes and Coral.
Partick are available to back at 10/3 and 7/2 generally which represents real value for a side which held its own in this division until the last weeks of the season against a newly promoted team. Away wins in this fixture are not unheard of and so that price looks outstanding given that we do not know how good Hibernian are yet.
On all known evidence this looks a potentially close game and so on the grounds of value alone it is worth taking a chance on PARTICK THISTLE TO WIN at odds of around 7/2, available with several firms.
DUNDEE v ROSS COUNTY
Only three points separated these two last season in the Scottish Premiership and punters are having a hard time picking a favourite for this league opener too. There may still be some betting value to be head though with the home side looking an attractive price.
Glen Kamara is an interesting signing from Arsenal while Celtic’s Scott Allan has genuine quality and arrives on loan for the season. A raft of other new signings has given Dundee a fresher look this term and they may well be a different proposition now.
Dundee’s friendly and League Cup form has been decent and so they don’t come into the opening round of league matches with any real trepidation and a positive result is very much expected.
In terms of their collective transfer value, Ross County look like potential relegation candidates and those types don’t particularly do too well away from home.
Their away form over the summer has been good, albeit against very weak opposition and that can have the strangely negative effect of giving a side too much confidence. The feeling is that they could come unstuck this time.
Head To Head
The two sides have met 41 times thus far; Dundee winning 12, Ross County winning 14 and the other 15 played out as draws.
It’s been very tight over the last couple of seasons with each side winning 2 of their 7 meetings in the league, though incredibly they both registered 5-2 home wins in the 2015/16 season against each other.
It’s a tight one with Dundee just holding sway at the moment as favourites at a general 6/4, though their visitors are not far behind at a genral 7/4 but with 19/10 available with William Hill and Betfair.
The stronger money on Friday on the exchanges has been for the home side and it’s easy to see why, the changes in the Dundee squad looking very positive and with their new recruits desperate to make a good impression early in the season.
Take Dundee to win this one at 6/4, those odds looking a little too large for what seems to be a home side with a proper favourite’s chance. Anything above 11/10 would actually represent value in this case.
KILMARNOCK v ST JOHNSTONE
Killie host St Johnstone on the day one of the 2017/18 Scottish Premiership season and the two have had contrasting preparations for this game.
Kilmarnock have been in League Cup action and recorded some big wins against lower ranked opposition, while St Johnstone were busy in Europa League action but lost over two legs to Trakai. They finished their prep with two good home friendly wins against Sunderland and Hartlepool however and come into this in good heart.
Killie have been busy adding experience to their defence with Kirk Broadfoot and Gordon Greer brought into the backline and both are expected to start here.
They’ve won three from three at Rugby Park since returning to action in July but face a much tougher opponent this time and St Johnstone are not a team they can afford to take lightly. Even Kilmarnock’s best may not be good enough here against an often underestimated side.
After the disappointing show in European qualifiers, St Johnstone will have been delighted with their 3-0 hammering of English Championship side Sunderland and they backed that up with another win and clean sheet against Hartlepool.
They are in fine fettle heading into their first league outing and with Rangers man Michael O’Halloran now at the club on loan, even better can be expected of them.
Head To Head
They have met 148 times in total, the home side coming out on top on 71 occasions while there have been 32 draws and 45 wins for St Johnstone.
It was a good fixture for away sides last time, all three games heading the way of the visitors with not a single home goal scored. Killie have just about held sway over the last two years and will fancy their chances of doing some more damage here, though they will not get things their own way.
This is another typically tight Scottish Premiership encounter with Kilmarnock chalked up at a best priced 17/10 in places, while the away side are the same.
Most of the money over the course of the week has been for St Johnstone in fact though this has not managed to move the bookmaker’s position very much and so there is value to be had if you want it. The draw is priced up at a standout 23/10 with Ladbrokes and that could be the way to go.
I’d say St Johnstone would be a better side than Kilmarnock this season and come here in good form from their friendly programme, but with home advantage to consider for Killie this game looks frightfully close and so to BACK THE DRAW AT 23/10 might be the safest way to go.
LYON v STRASBOURG
Last season’s Ligue 2 champions Strasbourg face a tough opener to the season when they go to Lyon on Saturday night with the former champions boasting Memphis Depay and Bertrand Traore in their squad among others.
Although new players have of course arrived at the club, the core of Lyon’s squad has remained from last season’s fourth-placed finish including Depay, Lopes, Fekir and Darder. This continuity will be important and will probably ensure that they are not caught colt by Strasbourg on day one.
Lyon have been mixing it with some good company over the summer, hammering Celtic 4-0, beating Ajax 2-0 and losing narrowly to Inter Milan.
The new boys have been in stellar form over the pre-season weeks, winning easily last time but doing so against very weak opposition and this represents a massive step up.
On the face of it, it doesn’t look as though they have quite managed to amass a very competitive squad for Ligue 1 and frankly I’m surprised to see them as short as 7/1 to win this match.
Head To Head
Only 15 meetings between the sides are on record and unsurprisingly Lyon have bossed the head-to-head with 12 wins in that time. There has been only one draw and the last of Strasbourg’s 2 wins in this fixture came in the French Cup back in 2001 – a resounding 3-0 win.
The home side are looking for a 12th win in a row against the team from Alsace and a sensible person would not bet against them achieving it.
Although generally 4/11 at the time of writing and in danger of hardening up, 2/5 is available on Lyon over the 90 minutes and that does not look a bad price at all given the relative strengths of these two sides.
The draw is a general 4/1 shot while the away side can be backed at up to 15/2 and, given where they are at right now, that is simply not big enough to have even a speculative bet.
Although you won’t make a fortune unless you are willing to significantly increase your stakes, backing LYON TO WIN AT 2/5 looks like the safe call here. The home side will want to get off to a flyer too and may get one on the board early, so with the lack of threat at the other end betting on LYON/LYON AT 11/10 with Ladbrokes on the half-time/full-time market could be value.
ST ETIENNE v NICE
Last year’s third placed finishers head to St-Etienne on the opening day in France and will be well fancied by some to get a result after last season’s exploits.
Despite a good start, St-Etienne finished their pre-season campaign with a bit of a whimper in truth and look a rather short price to get a result.
With the possible exception of young midfielder Assane Diousse they have not really signed anyone of note in order to improve on their 9th place finish last time and could be vulnerable here to a battle hardened Nice outfit.
The travellers have been playing “proper” football and playing it very well. Two hard-fought draws against Dutch giants Ajax in the Champions League qualifiers led to the French side advancing in the tournament on the away goals rule – an impressive result.
They’ve been pretty good away from home generally and I’d expect them to turn up here believing they are strong favourites to win, though the market says otherwise. The core of last season’s successful squad remains and, while they’ll need to add to it if they want to challenge the likes of PSG and Monaco, they should have little trouble against teams outside of the top 5 or so.
Head To Head
29 games have taken place between these two in all competitions with Nice coming out on top. The away side here have registered 14 wins against St-Etienne, who themselves have 10 in this fixture while the two have shared 5 draws.
After a rather lean spell against these opponents, Nice have now managed four wins in a row and frankly look good for a fifth here.
I still can’t quite work out why, but St-Etienne are pretty strong favourites for this at a best priced 13/10, in fact being as short as 6/5 in places.
The draw is a general 11/5 shot and that may attract a fair few punters, though the outstanding value in the 3-way market is the 13/5 on offer about Nice with Paddy Power.
Given last season’s positions, transfers made (or lack thereof), the values of the respective squads and their recent form it seems incredible that the away side are such a big price. BACK NICE TO WIN AT 13/5 here on the grounds of value.