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Wednesday, 21 November, 2018

Bookings may stay low as St Johnstone visit Celtic

Advice and opinions from the Soccer Boffin

Celtic ran out 5-2 winners the last time they faced St Johnstone
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Perhaps it will pay to bet on a low number of cards in the Ladbrokes Scottish Premiership game between Celtic and St Johnstone. Arguably the odds could be a bit too high. Hills offer 21-20 for under 35 booking points.

Each yellow will count as ten and each red as 25, so the bet will win if there are no reds and no more than three yellows, or if there is one red and there are no yellows.

The reason for suggesting the bet is simply that the odds seem potentially a bit too generous for the type of fixture.

St Johnstone are fourth in the table. Over the previous 16 seasons when Celtic played at home to teams who finished fourth the chance of a bookings make-up below 35 was 69 per cent.

The reason for mentioning St Johnstone’s excellent position is that the chance of a low card count can vary with the difference in ability between opponents. When Celtic played visitors who finished lower than fourth, small card counts occurred more often.

In 11 of St Johnstone’s last 14 Premiership games at Celtic - all those since they returned to the top level - the bookings make-up was below 35. That is 79 per cent. Earlier this season, though, it was only just below at 30.

Referee Nick Walsh has controlled two previous Premiership games at Celtic, both this season, and in both he was required to show only two yellow cards.

So there are some encouraging omens. Odds of 21-20, after all, suggest only a 49 per cent chance of a bet being successful. But as you would expect, there are some discouraging omens too. For example, there have been more cards generally in the Premiership over the last couple of seasons so stats from some of the earlier ones are no longer as relevant.

And there are other things to consider as well. Celtic have already won the Premiership. But they have an opportunity to finish the season unbeaten so they will not ease down as champions usually do - and indeed have earned the right to.

And St Johnstone will not want to say goodbye yet to another magnificent season. This will be the sixth season in a row they have finished in the top half of the table. As a business they are classified as a small company and do not have to file detailed accounts. Yet before kick-off today they are just one place and six points below Rangers.

There is an outside chance St Johnstone could finish above Rangers and qualify for the Europa League.

We should therefore expect both teams to be competitive. Even so the prospect of a low card count might just be better than the odds acknowledge.

Recommendation
Under 35 booking points in Celtic v St Johnstone
0.5pt 21-20 Hills0


Thought for the day

Tony Mowbray was angry. That was understandable. But what he said was wrong. The Blackburn manager was annoyed that Huddersfield counterpart David Wagner had rested ten players for a game against Birmingham, who like Blackburn could be relegated from the Sky Bet Championship.

Huddersfield had already qualified for the promotion playoffs. Birmingham had a player sent off but afterwards scored two goals and won 2-0.

Mowbray said: "Maybe he is not aware of the way the British game is played, and the integrity of all the leagues. Everybody should be trying to win every game."

Why? A team can gain up to three points from a match. If they do not need any, why waste effort trying to get them? It does not make sense.

Deep down Mowbray probably realises this. He added: "Huddersfield have to look after themselves, I suppose. They’re in the playoffs, so if he wants to rest everybody then so be it."

Football organisers seldom miss an opportunity to make fools of themselves. Accordingly, the Football League said they might punish Huddersfield, though they stressed that the result will stand.

Blackburn will be relegated unless they get a better result tomorrow than Birmingham or Nottingham Forest. If a team are in danger of demotion near the end of a season it is not entirely their fault. They would have accumulated more points if they could.

But it is nobody else’s fault either. And one of the frustrations they might have to endure is that other teams also in peril could play opponents who do not need any more points.

Over the previous 16 seasons when Celtic played at home to teams who finished fourth the chance of a bookings make-up below 35 was 69 per cent
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