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Monday 25 June 2018

Celtic to face Rangers in second 'split' game

Firm clash: Action from last month’s Old Firm clash between Celtic and Rangers
Firm clash: Action from last month’s Old Firm clash between Celtic and Rangers

Celtic's post-split match against Rangers at Parkhead has been scheduled for Sunday, April 29 - the second of their five remaining fixtures.

Brendan Rodgers' side are just one win away from securing their seventh successive Scottish Premiership title and could clinch it against Hibernian in their lunchtime kick-off at Easter Road on April 21.

The SPFL's move to avoid a potential title-clinching Old Firm clash in the first game after the split came as no surprise to observers of Scottish football but Celtic boss Brendan Rodgers preempted it after the Hoops' win at Hamilton on Sunday and said it would be, "sad for Scottish football and Scottish society."

In the almost certain event that Celtic - who face Rangers in the Scottish Cup semi-final on Sunday - win the league they will lift the Premiership trophy when they finish at home against Aberdeen on Sunday, May 12.

In the two matches preceding the visit of the Dons, Celtic host Kilmarnock and travel to Hearts. The SPFL were criticised for the delay in releasing the fixtures and they offered an explanation.

An SPFL spokesman said: "We want to thank supporters for the patience they have shown during the compilation of the post-split fixture schedule.

"Working with the 12 clubs, Police Scotland and our broadcast partners to produce a set of fixtures that meets everyone's requirements can often be a complex and time-consuming process, but fans can now look forward to an exciting conclusion to the Ladbrokes Premiership campaign."

Rangers start with a home game against the Gorgie men on Saturday, April 22 and after their trip to Parkhead they welcome Kilmarnock for the third time this season before away games against Aberdeen and Hibernian, their main rivals for second place.

Hearts and Killie will both visit Ibrox for the third time this season in the league.

Hearts released a statement explaining why the club had been allocated three away fixtures to leaves them with 18 home games and 20 away matches.

The statement read: "In an ideal world, each team would complete 19 home and 19 away league fixtures per season.

"Due to the structure of the league, however, this is not always possible. Depending upon which teams are in the top and bottom sections of the split, the situation can arise which causes an imbalance.

"In order to make the best of this less than perfect situation, some broad guidelines are followed in setting post-split fixtures.

"In simple terms, where an imbalance is inevitable, "mid-table" teams (clubs in positions five, six, seven and eight) are those that potentially lose out by having an uneven split of home and away games across the full season (i.e. 18 home/20 away).

Imbalances

"This recognises that the top four teams are potentially fighting for top spot or to secure a place in Europe, and the bottom four teams may well be fighting to avoid relegation/play-offs. While unacceptable, it is felt to be the "least unacceptable" option.

"Hearts currently occupies sixth place in the Ladbrokes Premiership, behind Kilmarnock in fifth. It is the club's understanding that Kilmarnock was disadvantaged in the post-split fixtures during the 2014/15 season. Again, in an effort to be as fair as possible to all clubs, previous imbalances are taken into account when determining the fixtures.

"Hearts are, therefore, unfortunately in the position of having to play three of the remaining five matches away from home.

"Whilst the club is disappointed about this situation, it is a consequence of the inherently imbalanced system that the SPFL clubs have elected to operate."

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