With one third of all games played, the Scottish Premiership table has rarely looked so competitive at this stage of the season.
Only five points separate the top half of the table, and only two points separate the top four – although both Kilmarnock and Hearts have played an extra game over Old Firm duo, Celtic and Rangers.
And whilst most pundits have been happy to explain away this year’s relative competitiveness among Scottish football’s top flight as a symptom of Celtic’s slow start to the season, they have failed to register one basic point – Celtic’s results so far this season, if anything, actually point to a slight over-performance when extrapolated and compared to results demonstrated over the whole of last season.
In other words, the Bhoys’ rivals may be improving. Rangers’ 7-1 hammering of Motherwell at the weekend – just as Celtic registered a 0-0 draw at Livingstone – appeared to have underlined that point.
Rangers and Hearts Emerging as Value Bets
The bookies, however, appear to be sticking with Celtic through thick and thin in the odds department. 1/8 (Betfair, decimal odds: 1.125) is currently the best price being offered by any British bookmaker for a Celtic 7-in-a-row.
But after demonstrating clear progress under Steven Gerard’s stewardship, Rangers are beginning to look like good value at 6/1 – odds which have climbed up from 9/1 at the beginning of the season.
“Rangers fans are desperate for a return to the top and Steven Gerrard will have to work miracles to keep the fans happy,” said William Hill spokesman Rupert Adams at the beginning of the season.
Now, however, as they sit two points behind their historic rivals three months into the season – with an almost identical goal difference – it appears that ‘miracle’ was probably too strong a word.
Hearts, however, are arguably the outstanding value bet for this season. After an almost flawless August and September, they currently find themselves in second place.
Their Achilles’ heel, however, has been the Old Firm duo – having been beaten in each of their three Glaswegian encounters across all competitions this season.
If the West Edinburgh side can reverse its trend in that department then its current odds of 66/1 (Betvictor) for the championship make what is already a value bet an outright steal.