Rangers and Celtic may not have been at their best, but the traditional Scottish football duopoly is back on top as the pursuers stall.
The first two are up against the bottom two this weekend, so will the gap widen?
Hearts and Dundee United have lost momentum in recent weeks, but there is a chance to stay on the Old Firm’s skirts if the third meets fourth in Edinburgh.
Here are just a few of the things to watch out for during the Scottish Premiership weekend.
Souttar sets the bar high at Hearts
When Hearts and Dundee United last met in the top division in Tynecastle in December 2015, promising teenager John Souttar was on the bench for the guests.
Finally fit again after a third Achilles tendon tear and other complaints, the 25-year-old defender has been a standout player for Hearts this season.
He is a portrait of serenity in central defense, also encourages attacks with his fine passing range and has now added goals and has already scored three goals in the Premier League this season.
Despite missing big chunks over the past two seasons, he’s been such a consistent performer, but his teammates will have to follow suit as Hearts get back on track after losing their unbeaten record and just two points from three games since their draw should be at Ibrox.
In a letter in July, former manager Craig Levein said: “If it weren’t for his injury problem, Souttar would be playing 30 caps for Scotland instead of his current three – and playing in the English Premier League.”
With his contract that expires in the summer, the classic defender could break new ground if he stays fit and a return to the international scene seems inevitable.
Braun in the foreground near Aberdeen, recover
Aberdeen boss Stephen Glass has been the subject of thorough scrutiny after a series of 10 games without a win. However, the Dons have responded impressively with home wins against Hibernian and Hearts on either side of a 2-2 draw at the Rangers.
Captain Scott Brown was an integral part of this sequence. Forced to play as a defender after a series of back injuries, the 36-year-old expertly put together a makeshift rearguard and even found time to score with a header at Ibrox.
Returning to the more familiar midfield for the second half last weekend to make a comeback against Hearts, he drove forward with the zeal and energy of a teenager.
Brown has appeared in every game in every competition this season, starting with the second clock. Some questions were asked after his substitution with a cramp against former club Celtic and a confrontation with Dundee manager James McPake but he responded with great guidance as the crisis loomed.
A win against Motherwell on Saturday would put Aberdeen in fifth place and Brown is the man to make sure the standards don’t slip against a team that have won two of their last three visits to Pittodrie and Fir Park in September .
Goodwin longs for the first goal in the All Saints fight
On Thursday, St. Mirren boss Jim Goodwin emphasized the importance of the first goal in the league and the statistics would support him ahead of the trip to St. Johnstone on Saturday. Only once in 31 top division games since 2009 has the team that finished the top scorer list in that game been beaten.
When the teams met in Paisley at the end of August, no one hit the net and the Buddies have not scored and only drawn one goal in any of their last six visits to Perth in that rather pathetic order.
In the second half of last season, on the way to a notable trophy double, St Johnstone was champion at finishing games after the first goal. Callum Davidson’s men took their second 1-0 win of the season at Tannadice last week, but that was largely down to an inspired performance by goalkeeper Zander Clark.
A deal made in Dens Park?
Kyogo Furuhashi announced his arrival in Scottish football with a hat trick against Dundee in August
Celtic have scored more (26) and conceded fewer (seven) goals than any other team in the Premier League, while Dundee has scored the second fewest (nine) and most conceded goals (23). When the teams met in August, the Dees were hit by six.
Celtic have zeroed in each of their last seven league games against Dundee, and the Blues last scored a win in that game in May 2001.
Dundee’s last home game was a 5-0 loss to bottom-bottom Ross County, while Ange Postecoglou’s side are looking for a fourth straight away Premiership win.
Pre-decided deal? Well, that’s not really how this league works, is it?
Dundee have picked up seven points from their last four games. At home they beat Aberdeen, drew with Hibs and lost to the Rangers very unlucky. Celtic have scored three goals on the last two away days – on Easter Road and at Ferencvaros, but in between they closed a gap at home against Livingston.
Will the Rangers keep making goal starts?
While Rangers rebounded last weekend to score six goals to crush Motherwell, Ross County was denied the opportunity to build on their own loss to Dundee as their game against Hibs was due to the Covid-19 outbreak on Sept. Osterstrasse Club.
County had played 10 league games without a win before scoring five at Dens Park. Suddenly the Staggies were bragging and beating unstoppable blows home. But they’ll need all of that and more to get their 17th victory against the Rangers.
Malky Mackay’s side scored two goals at home against the Rangers in late August, but the Rangers scored four. Last season, the total number of points over three wins for the Ibrox team was 11-0.
After winning every home game last time around on his unbeaten path to the Premiership title, the champions have already lost points three times in Govan. On Thursday, away in Brondby, they fell behind for the fourth time in a row but refused to lose.
This character will offer comfort to Boss Steven Gerrard, while the demolition of Fir Park suggests that “click” may not be far away.