Fixtures for the forthcoming Scottish Premiership campaign have been released and Celtic will kick off their bid for a historic 10th successive title at home to Hamilton on Sunday 2 August.
Neil Lennon’s side were crowned champions for the ninth time in a row in May when the campaign was curtailed prematurely by the coronavirus crisis and begin their attempt at a record-breaking triumph when they welcome Brian Rice’s side to Celtic Park for their latest flag-raising celebration.
Rangers will be determined to halt their rivals’ reign and Steven Gerrard’s team start their season with a trip to Aberdeen the day before. As it stands fans are still unable to attend matches, although the first Old Firm game of the season, at Parkhead, has been scheduled for Saturday 17 October – a date subject to change for TV purposes – when the SPFL is hopeful that restrictions on social distancing may have been relaxed enough to allow some supporters through the turnstiles.
There will be extra poignancy on 2 January when Glasgow’s big two meet for their traditional New Year showdown as the clubs mark the 50th anniversary of the Ibrox disaster, while the third derby is back at Parkhead over the weekend of March 20.
Dundee United – who are reportedly set to announce Micky Mellon of Tranmere as their new manager – will make their return to the top flight after a four-year absence, so long as the legal challenge launched by relegated Hearts and Partick Thistle does not scupper their plans. St Johnstone are scheduled to be their first opponents at Tannadice on 1 August, when Callum Davidson will take charge for the first time after taking over from the departed Tommy Wright.
The opening day also sees Hibernian welcome Kilmarnock to Easter Road and St Mirren facing off against Livingston in Paisley. Motherwell’s trip to Ross County has been pushed back until Monday 3 August.
The winter break has been scrapped as the league aims to make room for cup ties that went unplayed last season, with games scheduled across the four weekends in January.
The SPFL chief executive, Neil Doncaster, said: “The pre-season fixture announcement is always a key event in every football supporter’s calendar, but it feels particularly important this year, given the challenges caused by Covid-19.
“Football plays a unique role in the social, cultural and economic life of Scotland, and I’m sure the millions of passionate fans who follow our game will welcome this significant step towards the resumption of matches. The unveiling of the 2020-21 Premiership fixtures will allow clubs and fans to start planning their schedules, but it must be stressed that they remain subject to approval from the Scottish government for the restart of football in Scotland.”