Kilmarnock will fancy their chances of beating Celtic at Rugby Park this weekend, after the Hoops were humbled at home by Spanish side Valencia in the Europa League round of 32 on Thursday evening.
That 2-0 defeat by the Spanish side was the Celts’ first defeat in any competition in 2019. The two goals Valencia scored were also the first conceded by Celtic in this calendar year. What the effect of that will be on Brendan Rodgers and his team remains to be seen, but Killie might just sense some vulnerability they can exploit.
Killie gaffer Steve Clarke has told the media this week that he expects a response from the Celts, and his team head into this game after a 0-0 draw with the other half of the Old Firm last weekend. That draw with Rangers in the Scottish Cup meant that Killie have now gone four games without a win in all competitons.
Kilmarnock vs Celtic Prediction: Killie 1-1 Hoops
Our prediction for this game is that Killie will hold the defending champions to a score draw. While Killie have not been winning many games in recent weeks, they remain a difficult team to beat, as their goalless draw with Rangers last weekend testifies. Celtic have swept all before them domestically in 2019, but their home defeat to Valencia on Thursday evening will have had a deleterious effect on morale. For that reason, we suspect that energy levels might be low, and the Celts will struggle to find enough quality to beat Killie in Ayrshire.
Our recommended tip: Draw, both score
Our featured tip for this game comes from Coral, who are offering odds of 19/4 on both teams scoring and the match ending in a draw. This bet appeals to us as it matches our prediction of a 1-1 final score for the game, but also gives you plenty of flexibility when it comes to the actual final score. The odds of 19/4 also offer good value and should provide some decent returns for you as a punter if you decide to follow this tip. We strongly suspect that the game will be an exciting score draw.
These two sides have played each other on two occasions in the 2018/19 season, with each winning one game. The first game between the teams was a league match at Rugby Park on September 23. Killie won the game 2-1, thanks to a late injury-time winner from Stuart Findlay.
Celtic won the second encounter between the teams, a Scottish Premiership game at Parkhead on December 8, in emphatic style. The Hoops triumphed 5-1 that day, with Scotland winger James Forrest bagging a brace of goals. Odsonne Eduouard was also on the scoresheet for the Hoops that day.
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Players to watch: Jordan Jones & Oliver Burke
Northern Ireland international forward Jordan Jones has become a key part of Steve Clarke’s hard-working Killie side in 2018/19. He has weighed in with four goals in his 23 Scottish Premiership appearances this season, highlighting the importance of his presence in Clarke’s team. On his way to Rangers next season, Jones will be keen to impress his future employers with good performance against their fiercest rivals.
Oliver Burke has emerged as Celtic’s main striker since he arrived on loan from West Bromwich Albion in the winter transfer window. Big and powerful, as well as skilful, Brendan Rodgers has played Burke as the main striker, when in the past he was more accustomed to playing out wide or in the number 10 role. He has scored three goals in five league appearances since signing for the Celts, and could be a vital man on Sunday.