The 2020/21 Scottish Premiership season gets underway on Saturday afternoon with four games scheduled. It has been a shambolic summer for the game in Scotland with Hearts dragging the SPFL through the courts after last season was cut short and the Jambos relegated early. Everyone with a love for the game will be relieved to see the focus return to footballing matters. Aberdeen and Rangers bring the curtain up at Pittodrie from 12:30 GMT in a game shown live on television.
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Rangers are one of the pre-season favourites to win the title and return to the head of Scottish football, but they face a tricky opening match when visiting the Granite City and home of fierce rivals Aberdeen. There’s a lot of bad blood between both sets of fans and the players will be determined to give their supporters an important three points and a perfect start to the campaign.
The last time Dons and Gers met at this venue they played out a stunning 2-2 draw back in December. Arfield and Jack gave the blues a 2-0 lead inside 30 minutes and they looked to be coasting but Aberdeen fired back through goals for Gallagher and Considine. The last three meetings of Aberdeen and Rangers at this venue has produced a total of 12 goals and armchair fans settling in for the live-action will want to see this renewal follow that trend.
Dons slash wage budget
Aberdeen dropped from third in the Scottish Premiership to fourth last season and that was a bitter pill to swallow for a set of fans who demand their side compete with the Old Firm for the top two places in the division. Manager Derek McInnes will be eager to oversee a return to the top three in the campaign ahead but it has been a difficult period for the Dons who were forced into making a number of cutbacks, including reducing the wage budget by a staggering £1m. It is feared that will have a massive impact on their ability to compete.
It was reported in the Scottish sporting press recently that Aberdeen have their sights set on plugging a £10m shortfall with selling players seen as the quickest and best way to achieve that. Aberdeen do have a number of talented players in their squad who will carry a decent transfer value with Sam Cosgrove being the best of them. The attacker was a target for French club Guingamp recently but failed to agree terms after his current employers accepted a big transfer fee. It is not yet known if the French side will return or if that offer will force teams in England to table a bid.
Aberdeen enjoy home advantage on Saturday against Rangers and can take heart from some fantastic performances against the Bears at this venue in recent times. The pair opened the 2018 campaign with a 1-1 draw in a match that saw Aberdeen score a 90th-minute equaliser to snatch a draw. Rangers lost striker Morelos to an early red card that day but took the lead thanks to a penalty scored by captain Tavernier. That was the first of seven meetings of the sides that season with Aberdeen losing just twice.
Gers enjoy a successful pre-season
While teams in Scotland have been facing financial ruin during the lockdown, Glasgow club Rangers have done a roaring trade selling season tickets and are on course for another record-breaking year. It is unlikely Ibrox Stadium will be at capacity again this year, but supporters of the blues have shown their faith in manager Steven Gerrard by digging deep and investing in the club. They have backed the squad but will demand results improve on the park after falling behind Old Firm rivals Celtic last season despite beating them at Parkhead in December.
When brought to the club, former Liverpool star Gerrard was given a sizeable transfer kitty and tasked with returning Rangers to the head of the Scottish game. The board gambled when appointing an inexperienced manager but backed him financially and expected success in both the Premiership and Europa League. Rangers rate as Scottish football’s most successful club having won 54 titles in the past but their most recent came in 2011. Fans want to see that drought end and they would love Gerrard to be the man to do it.
It has been a promising summer for the Govan club who have been active in the transfer market and enjoyed success during a recent tour of France. The Gers played their final pre-season friendly at Ibrox against English club Coventry City and really impressed, blowing their opponents away with a strong second-half performance. Things now get serious and Gerrard will want to see the likes of Morelos, Hagi, Kent and Tavernier play well, drive the side to victory and lay down a marker for the rest of the season.
Aberdeen vs Rangers prediction
There’s never a dull moment when these clubs clash and Saturday is expected to be no different. There will be no supporters inside the stadium but winning this match means so much to both sets of players that it shouldn’t make too much of a difference. Aberdeen would love nothing more than to damage their opponent’s title dreams at the earliest opportunity.
Gerrard has made some promising moves in the transfer market already this summer but he’s targeting a few more new signings before he’ll be happy with his squad. In Hagi they have a player capable of turning a game in their favour and that’s exactly what the youngster will be asked to do here. Rangers must be strong in defence, but they are capable of winning the three points here.
Scottish Premiership odds
The pre-match betting for this Scottish Premiership match has Rangers as 47/100 odds favourites for the win with Aberdeen priced at 6/1 to get off the mark for the season with the victory. The third draw in three games is 345/100. Joining live during the match? In-play bets should be available as well.