The English Premier League season may be over but there’s still plenty to keep lovers of the UK scene busy in August with the Scottish Premiership getting underway on the opening day of the month. One of the standout fixtures from the Saturday 15:00 GMT kickoffs will be played in the nation’s capital city of Edinburgh where local side Hibs take on Kilmarnock.
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This is a meeting of two teams with bags of experience playing in the top tier of the Scottish game and both will be hopeful of securing a top-half finish this term and knocking on the door of qualification to the Europa League. After a summer of in-fighting at boardroom level, the pressure is now on the players to help Scottish football move forward. There will be increased attention on the game during August and it’s up to the teams to make the most of that.
Hibs and Kilmarnock last met at Easter Road on 30 November last year when playing out an entertaining 2-2 finish in this competition. The Hibees blasted their way to a two-goal lead after Doidge and Naismith hit the net inside 47 minutes but Killie fought back, Bruce and Del Fabro drawing the sides level and ensuring a share of the spoils. A total of nine goals were scored in the four games involving Hibs and Kilmarnock last season. Supporters will want to see more of the same.
Hibs make three new signings
Hibs finished down in seventh place last season which is a big disappointment for a team with their history, budget, and ambitions. Followers of the club expect to see their side push for a top-six finish and bag that extra game against the Old Firm which is a real money-spinner. They also ask for the Hibees to give them plenty to shout about in both the League Cup and Scottish Cup, so manager Jack Ross won’t be surprised when the board set out their targets for the year. Ross is a young manager but one respected in the game and he’ll be keen to help Hibs improve in the coming months.
It came as no surprise to read in the Scottish sporting press that Hibs players had deferred their wages in an attempt to help the club survive financially during the coronavirus emergency. Like many other teams across Scotland, Hibs face a difficult few months as they aim to stop the flow of cash out of the club while operating with an extremely limited income. It is not yet known when the paying public will be allowed back inside Easter Road, but the players must give them something to look forward to with a run of convincing performances in August.
Manager Ross has made moves to strengthen his pool for the coming campaign although it’s clear to see he’s working under tough conditions with a very limited budget. Kevin Nisbet has joined from Championship side Dunfermline, Drey Wright from St Johnstone and Alex Gogic who was previously on the books at Hamilton. Not the kind of transfer news that will get fans pulses racing but Ross will be confident in his ability to get the most out of the squad at his disposal.
Improvement a must for Killie
Last season was a difficult one for Kilmarnock and their supporters as the club seemed to go backwards after Steve Clarke left Rugby Park to become manager of Scotland. Clarke left the Ayrshire team in a strong position and they even qualified for the Europa League, but that adventure was short-lived, Killie dumped out at the first time of asking. They didn’t do too much better in the league, dropping down to eighth at the end of last term. The pressure is now on the players, coaching staff, and fans to get things back moving in the right direction again.
Manager Alex Dyer doesn’t have European football to act as a distraction from the Premiership campaign this year and some supporters may see that as a positive. The club’s backers won’t get too carried away when tabling their expectations for the coming season, but they will ask for a top-six finish, decent run in the Scottish Cup and to put pressure on the top five of the Premiership. The manager certainly won’t be scared off by that challenge.
Kilmarnock conceded 41 goals last term and that was the same number as St Mirren who finished a place below them in the pecking order and had the threat of relegation hanging over them for much of the campaign. Dyer will want to address that problem and he moved to bring in goalkeeper ex-Aberdeen shot-stopper Danny Rogers on a season deal. He has been used during Killie’s pre-season games and is expected to challenge for the number one spot this season. The Irishman has vast experience of the Scottish game and Dyer believes he has a goalkeeper he can put his faith in.
Hibs vs Kilmarnock prediction
This is an interesting match as we have two teams who will fancy their chances of finishing in the top six this season and perhaps even closing the gap on the European places. Hibs enjoy home advantage and have been a tad busier in the transfer market, but the deals done by both teams so far aren’t too exciting.
Hibs will know the dangers of getting off to a losing start at home and may prefer to play it safe, keep errors to a minimum and aim for a share of the spoils. This is a game they are good enough to win but Kilmarnock are no pushovers and may also see the value in a point. We could see both teams cancel each other out here as they did do in two of their last three meetings.
Scottish Premiership odds
The pre-match betting odds have Hibs priced at 11/10 to collect the week one win or there’s 5/2 up for grabs to those who prefer backing Kilmarnock in the Capital. Can’t split the pair? The draw is 12/5. Tuning in live? You can bet live during the game as well.