With just 10 matches to go until the Premiership splits in two, Celtic are already guaranteed a top six place. Another four places look certain to go to Aberdeen, Rangers Hearts and St Johnstone but any one of Dundee, Hamilton, Inverness CT, Kilmarnock, Motherwell, Partick Thistle or Ross County could complete the top half.
So, who will it be? Taking into account the results from the first 22 rounds of action, here is one possible outcome.
By weighting the results of the opening matches (Rounds 1 to 11 weighted 60%, 12 to 22 40%) to take into account the venue for each team’s remaining matches and rounding to the nearest whole number, Kilmarnock would sneak into sixth place by a single point over Partick Thistle and Ross County.
Celtic would comfortably be champions with an Old Firm title decider on March 12 not out of the question and Aberdeen would be guaranteed a Europa League place.
However, there are a couple of things to consider before we can confidently predict who will take sixth.
Firstly, Aberdeen have only played Motherwell once. The table above assumes that Aberdeen will win when the sides meet for their rescheduled round 10 match at Pittodrie on February 15. This seems reasonable considering the Steelmen have picked up just one point against the top five teams so far this season.
Should Motherwell win that game however, they would be the team sneaking into sixth place because they would be expected to pick up more points from their last 10 games than they currently are. It would also see Aberdeen slip down to third and needing another two points to guarantee a place in the Europa League qualifiers.
Taking a look at the unrounded table below shows just how tight it will be for that sixth spot.
As a result, goal difference could be huge for Kilmarnock, Patrick Thistle and Ross County and the Jags have no small advantage over their opponents in that respect. Heavy defeats at the hands of Aberdeen and Celtic see Kilmarnock currently on -18 and Ross County are on -15 meaning Partick’s -6 would make them favourite to nick sixth spot.
The final thing to consider are the five games played this midweek. This doesn’t affect Dundee or Kilmarnock after their match was rearranged for February 11 when most of the rest of the league are competing in the Scottish Cup. Four of the games went the way the table would expect.
Motherwell’s win over Ross County and Celtic beating Aberdeen were bankers if the above table is to pan out. St Johnstone’s win over Partick Thistle and Hearts thrashing of Rangers were the favoured result but draws weren’t out of the question. Inverness’s 3-0 defeat to Hamilton wasn’t.
That match was looked at as being another draw given the previous two meetings had ended that way. If Hamilton continue to draw approximately half their games the only difference would be a closer fight for 11th place but it goes to show that not all the results will pan out.
From this statistical point of view, and all the above considered, Partick Thistle would be favourites for sixth given their advantageous goal difference but Kilmarnock, Ross County and Dundee will push them all the way.