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Scottish Premiership Preview: Celtic, Hearts start with road trips

Scottish Premiership champions Celtic begin their title defence at Ross County on Saturday, while cash-strapped Hearts play St. Johnstone.

Celtic have won the Scottish top-flight title for the last two seasons, claiming the trophy in a canter last season with the absence of city rivals Rangers.

Rangers – who will play in Scottish League One this season after financial difficulties saw them relaunched in the fourth tier last year – are again absent, leaving Neil Lennon’s side red-hot favourites to make it three titles in a row.

Victor Wanyama and Gary Hooper have both departed Glasgow though, joining Premier League clubs Southampton and Norwich City respectively.

Celtic will rely on Anthony Stokes and Georgios Samaras for more goals this season as a result.

Their fixture against Ross County will not be easy, with Celtic beating them just once in four meetings last term.

Of the clashes, two were draws while Derek Adams’ side won one, at their Victoria Park home.

Hearts, who start the season with a 15-point deduction after entering administration, are likely to face a struggle to remain in the top flight.

They begin with a tricky away trip to St. Johnstone, who finished fourth last season, on Sunday.

A good result will be vital for Hearts as they prepare for the first Edinburgh derby of the season against Hibernian on August 11.

Also on Sunday, Motherwell, who finished second last season, are on the road to Hibernian.

English striker Michael Higdon topped the league scoring charts for Motherwell last term, scoring 22 goals, but he has gone to the Eredivisie to play for NAC Breda.

Hibernian also had a prolific striker leave, with Leigh Griffiths – who netted 20 times in the league – returning to English club Wolves at the end of his loan deal.

Partick Thistle will play their first top-flight match in nine years when they host Dundee United in the season opener on Friday.

Other matches on the first weekend will see Aberdeen welcome the visit of Kilmarnock, while St. Mirren – who finished second-from-bottom last term – visit Inverness Caledonian Thistle, with both fixtures to be played on Saturday.

Wed 31 Jul, 2013
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