SPL leaders Celtic have spent the last week training on Spain’s Costa del Sol, but it’s back to reality with a bump on Saturday as Scotland’s top league returns from its winter break amidst the country’s coldest snap for two years.
Temperatures have plummeted to -10C in some parts as snow and ice have made an unwelcome return, but Hearts will be hoping to use it to their advantage and catch Celtic’s sun-seekers cold at Celtic Park.
And John McGlynn’s side will need every advantage they can get if they are to upset Neil Lennon’s champions.
The Jambos have lost their last five consecutive SPL matches against Celtic without even scoring a goal. That run includes two 4-0 reverses and a 5-0 thrashing, as well as a narrow 1-0 defeat at Parkhead earlier this season.
However, the Gorgie side do have several reasons to be optimistic.
Although their last five SPL meetings have ended in defeat, they did knock Lennon’s men out of the Scottish Cup on their way to last May’s famous Hampden triumph against Hibernian.
And if you include this cup win, Hearts have beaten Celtic at least once in each of the last three seasons.
In fact, since the SPL began in 1998, Hearts have beaten Celtic 11 times in all competitions, including five victories at Celtic Park. On top of this, the sides have drawn seven times over the same time period, including five times in Glasgow.
This is a record that nobody else currently in the SPL can match and underlines why many people saw Hearts as the natural replacement to Rangers as Celtic’s biggest rivals in the top league.
McGlynn’s side are 17/2 to pick up another win on Saturday, while they are 4/1 to hold out for a draw.
New customers who sign up online with bwin qualify for a free £20 bet and using that to back a draw at Celtic Park will return £100 if successful.
The Hoops, however, will be in confident mood. They have won six of their last seven SPL matches and, on Tuesday, they rounded off their training camp with a 2-1 friendly victory over Steaua Bucharest in Marbella.
For this reason, Lennon’s men are 1/4 favourites to take all three points, while you will get tempting odds of 11/1 on them chalking up a third 4-0 victory over Hearts in their last six games.