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Monday's Scottish Premiership preview: Old Firm duo set for Ibrox showdown

The Scottish Premiership will get up and running for 2023 in style on Monday with the second Old Firm derby of the season taking place at Ibrox between Rangers and Celtic.

Rangers will head into the contest in good form, but they realistically need to get the better of their fierce rivals to reignite their title hopes, with Celtic currently sitting nine points clear at the top of the standings. 

It will be a lunchtime start at Ibrox, with five further matches taking place in the Scottish Premiership at 15:00, including the Edinburgh derby between Hearts and Hibernian.

Beale set for toughest test to date

What: Rangers v Celtic 
Where: Ibrox, Glasgow 
When: 12:30, Monday 2nd January 
How to watch: Sky Sports Main Event and Football 
Odds: Rangers 11/5, Draw 5/2, Celtic 6/5

Michael Beale has certainly hit the ground running as Rangers manager, winning all four of his matches in charge to date, with the most convincing of those successes coming against Motherwell last time out.

However, Monday's Old Firm clash will undoubtedly be the biggest test Beale has faced during his short time in the Ibrox hot seat, with anything less than a victory likely to leave his side's title hopes in tatters.

Rangers should be boosted by the availability of forward Alfredo Morelos, who limped off with an apparent hamstring issue against Motherwell but is expected to be passed fit to play.

Morelos has been the scourge of Celtic in the past and he is 7/4 in the Anytime scorer market, with Rangers 11/5 to end a four-match winless run in the league against their fierce rivals.

Celtic proving unstoppable

Rangers may be on a four-match winning streak, but that pales into insignificance when compared to Celtic's current form, with the Bhoys having won 12 Premiership matches on the spin and 18 of their 19 league games to date this term.

That run has propelled Ange Postecoglou's side nine points clear at the top of the standings and they appear well placed to successfully defend their title.

Postecoglou is not resting on his laurels, however, with Celtic having already signed three new players in January, with Tomoki Iwata, Yuki Kobayashi and Alistair Johnston all arriving - the latter two could make their debuts against Rangers.

Celtic claimed a 4-0 victory in the opening Old Firm derby of the season at Parkhead in September, a repeat result this time around, at odds of 40/1, would appear unlikely, but any kind of victory for the Bhoys would see them take another giant step towards the title.

Edinburgh derby at Tynecastle

What: Hearts v Hibernian 
Where: Tynecastle, Edinburgh 
When: 15:00, Monday 2nd January 
How to watch: Hearts TV 
Odds: Hearts 6/5, Draw 5/2, Hibernian 11/5

The Old Firm will not be the only derby match contested in the Premiership on Monday, as Hearts and Hibernian will also lock horns in the second Edinburgh derby of the season. 

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Hearts currently sit best of the rest behind Celtic and Rangers in the standings following a four-match unbeaten run, while they also boast one of the most in-form strikers in the division in Lawrence Shankland, who has netted 10 in his last 10 appearances. 

Shankland was also on the scoresheet when these two sides met earlier in the season - a 1-1 draw at Easter Road - and he is 13/10 in the Anytime scorer market on Monday. 

The Scotland international, who has also been confirmed as Hearts captain for the rest of the season following the injury suffered by regular skipper Craig Gordon, will certainly be licking his lips at the prospect of facing a Hibs side that are struggling for form. 

Hibs have lost eight of their last 10 Premiership games, including being thrashed 4-0 by Celtic last time out, with the pressure seemingly mounting on manager Lee Johnson, who could certainly do with a derby pick-me-up in this one. 

Dons out to end losing streak

What: Aberdeen v Ross County 
Where: Pittodrie, Aberdeen 
When: 15:00, Monday 2nd January 
Odds: Aberdeen 13/20, Draw 11/4, Ross County 9/2 

It has not been an impressive return to action for Aberdeen, who have lost all four of their matches since the World Cup break, but Jim Goodwin's side will be confident of picking up all three points when bottom-of-the-table Ross County head to Pittodrie. 

The Staggies have also lost four matches on the spin, which has put their four-season stay in the top flight under serious threat. 

A win for Ross County would be enough to move them off the bottom of the standings, provided Dundee United do not claim all three points at St Johnstone in another of Monday's games. 

The remaining matches in the Premiership will see out-of-form Motherwell travel to Livingston and Kilmarnock host St Mirren at Rugby Park.

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