SPL Preview: Matchday Nine

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SPL Preview: Matchday Nine

After the international break, the Clydesdale Bank Scottish Premier League is back for matchday nine.

With Rangers not in action, Celtic have an opportunity to open up a three point gap at the top of the table. Rangers' game with Dundee United has been postponed as a mark of respect to chairman Eddie Thompson, who passed away last week.

Celtic play Inverness Caledonian Thistle, where they will be hoping to secure a fifth consecutive away win at the Caledonian Stadium.

Hamilton will look to reverse their recent slump of form when they play hosts to St Mirren, and Kilmarnock will be looking to strengthen their grip on third place when they host Motherwell.

Aberdeen have lost their last four games and are therefore at the bottom of the table, although they have a chance to correct that on Saturday when play host to Falkirk, the team one place above them.

The game on Sunday should prove to be a classic, as Hearts travel across Edinburgh for an encounter with arch-rivals Hibernian, in what promises to be one fiesty local derby.

Here is a summary of the team news for each match this weekend:

 

Saturday:

Falkirk v Aberdeen

For Falkirk, Arnau Riera and Dean Holden could be included in the squad after coming back from injury and proving their fitness in midweek. Also, their Trinidad and Tobago veteran Russell Lapaty returns to the squad unscathed from his country's midweek 2-1 victory over the United States.

For Aberdeen, left-back Charlie Mulgrew and ex-Gillingham goalkeeper Bertrand Bossu will miss the game against Falkirk, but Jamie Smith returns from a calf strain.

Hamilton v St Mirren

There are no new injury worries for Hamilton this weekend, as defender Mark McLaughlin remains Accies boss Billy Reid's only absentee, as he is sidelined with a knee injury.

For St Mirren, David Barron, Stephen O'Donnell, and Tom Brighton are all sidelined through injury, and key striker Jim Hamilton looks likely to miss the game as he struggles to shake off a hamstring injury.

Inverness CT v Celtic

Key striker Andy Barrowman is a big doubt for Inverness' clash with Celtic on Saturday, as a strained hamstring could see him miss out on Callie Thistle's big game.

Celtic have been dealt with the blow that Jan Vennegoor of Hesselink is sidelined for up to four weeks with a groin injury.

Manager Gordon Strachan will also assess the fitness of Artur Boruc, Shunsuke Nakamura, Scott MacDonald, and Georgios Samaras following the international break, but anticipates no problems.

Kilmarnock v Motherwell

Kilmarnock vice-captain James Fowler is set to return after suspension. Garry Hay is still out with a knee injury, along with long-term casualties Ryan O'Leary and Allan Russell.

Kilmarnock manager Jim Jefferies also has doubts over Allan Johnston and Willie Gibson, who both picked up hamstring strains playing for the reserves.

Motherwell hope to have Stephen Craigan back in their squad ahead of the game.The defender missed Northern Ireland's World Cup qualifying double-header with a groin injury but his club will assess his fitness ahead of the Rugby Park trip.

Stephen Hughes should recover from a bug in time to play, while Brian McLean (knee) remains on the sidelines.

 

Sunday:

Hibernian v Hearts

Hibernian manager Mixu Paatelainen is without left-back Paul Hanlon for Sunday's derby. Hanlon has been called up to the Scotland U-19 squad, while centre-back Chris Hogg has failed to recover from a head knock and will not be involved, so Sol Bamba should partner Rob Jones.

Winger Alan O'Brien and right-back Kevin McCann are sidelined with knee problems.

Andrew Driver will return to the Hearts squad after missing out since August with an Achilles problem but the club will study his fitness on Saturday to determine whether he can start against Hibs.

Eggert Jonsson returns from suspension but Deividas Cesnauskis (thigh), David Obua (muscle strain) and Adrian Mrowiec (knee) remain on the sidelines, while Robbie Neilson (Achilles) is still recovering from surgery.

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