Celtic v Hearts (Preview)
Probabilities for the match are Celtic 76%, Hearts 8% and 16% for the draw.
Hearts finished last season with 61 points and 57.4 expected points so overperforming slightly. They were always ahead of their expected points throughout the season.
They were 3rd overall in the league last season and they were 3rd for expected goals (non penalty) but for expected goals against they were actually 7th with 49.3 and they had Craig Gordon to thank for that. Their Post Shot xG faced was 51.6 but they only conceded 43 non penalty goals.
There was some positive variance on their side receiving 8 penalties (3rd highest), conceding just 2 penalties (joint lowest) and they were only down to 10 men for 37 minutes of the season (3rd lowest).
Celtic’s average Set Play xG against Hearts last season was 0.1875 per game which was the lowest against any opponent for Celtic. Celtic’s average Set Play xG for the season was 0.422.
50.2% of Hearts’ opponent’s xG came in the first half last season and that was the 2nd highest with the average for the league being 44.3%. Against Celtic that increased with Celtic getting 60% of their xG against Hearts in the first half.
Below is a 6 game rolling average graph for Hearts’s xG and xGA for last season and this season so far.
Their chances conceded are increasing but not at the same high rate their chance creation is.
Liam Boyce was the best player (outside of Celtic and Rangers and who played more than 1710 minutes last year) for combined xG and xA per 90 at 0.5 and this was 5th overall (including Celtic and Rangers players).
Barrie McKay had the best xA per 90 (outwith Celtic and Rangers players) at 0.29 and was 5th overall.
Stats from the four Celtic v Hearts encounters from last season below;
· Away (Jul) – Celtic lost 2-1 (NPxG 1.29/1.2). Possession 74% Celtic
· Home (Dec) – Celtic won 1-0 (NPxG 2.75/1.0). Possession 69% Celtic
· Away (Jan) – Celtic won 2-1 (NPxG 1.16/0.56). Possession 58% Celtic
· Home (May) – Celtic won 4-1 (NPxG 3.50/0.7). Possession 64% Celtic
Celtic having xPts of 1.4, 2.6, 1.7 and 2.7 for the four games and for all four games Celtic’s attacks were down the left (41%, 40%, 47% and 47%).
Against Hearts last season Celtic had 8.4 expected points, 9 actual points, 8.7 expected goals, 9 actual goals, 3.46 expected non penalty goals and 3 non penalty goals.
Hearts are likely to line up as they did versus Dundee Utd last week with the following;
· 1 Craig Gordon
· 2 Michael Smith, 4 Craig Halkett, 15 Kye Rowles and 19 Alexander Cochrane
· 14 Cammy Devlin and 7 Jorge Grant
· 17 Alan Forrest, 10 Liam Boyce and 18 Barrie McKay
· 9 Lawrence Shankland
Although Haring could come in for Boyce to tighten up the midfield more.
Hearts have added Alan Forrest and Lawrence Shankland to their firepower and Forrest was 25th overall for xG and xA per 90 at 0.44 last season which is a very good return playing for Livingston who ended in the bottom half and Shankland is a goalscorer who will revel in the xG created by this team.
Against Ross County Hearts played their usual formation from last season which was a 3-4-3 one but they did switch to a 4-2-3-1 for the games against Hibernian and Dundee Utd.
Hearts are 3rd in the league on 7pts from 9 and are 4th for expected points and 4th for non penalty expected goal difference. They are 3rd for non penalty expected goals.
Celtic look like they will have more clean sheets this season but Hearts are the toughest challenge to that (outside of Rangers) so it will be interesting to see if the defence can get another clean sheet.
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