Six things to look out for in the Scottish Premiership this weekend

Georgios Samaras cuts a dejected figure on the touchline as Celtic suffer defeat to Aberdeen

After two weekends of thrilling cup action, full focus returns to the Scottish Premiership with six big matches in store.

Scott McClymont and Thom Watt pick out some of the key things to look out for this weekend.

Will Aberdeen old boy provide some respite for Danny Lennon’s St Mirren?

Eric Djemba-Djemba’s recent arrival may have sparked a series of headlines and flat cap sales in Paisley, but Saturday’s early kick-off with Aberdeen will showcase the talent of the club’s other January additions.

Gregg Wylde’s six-month spell at Pittodrie cannot be viewed as anything other than a disappointment, with Derek McInnes expressing his dismay at the winger’s desire to leave.

There’s been plenty of debate over the rights and wrongs of Wylde’s hasty departure with many questions centring on the midfielder’s ability to work hard for his first-team place.

Having given up the chance of a cup double for a return to the west of Scotland, the 22-year-old must start repaying the faith Danny Lennon has shown in him.

Josh Magennis is an altogether different case and can't play against the Dons.

Brought in to help Steven Thompson in attack, St Mirren looked weak up front without the pair in last weekend’s Scottish Cup defeat to Dundee United.

The Buddies have scored 10 goals during their run of two wins in their last 10 Premiership matches and Lennon must try to halt the in-form Dons in their bid to avoid the relegation play-off spot.

Having effectively saved his job during the 1-1 draw with Aberdeen back in September, Lennon may be hoping a positive result could spark a renewed run to safety.SM

Have Kilmarnock learned how to deal with Dundee United?

It may only be February but Dundee United host Kilmarnock for the third time this season.

Jackie McNamara’s men have run out winners in all the meetings so far with an aggregate score of 10-3.

Kilmarnock could argue time hasn’t been on their side with two of those matches coming when United were in the middle of the hot scoring streak, in which they scored four goals or more in four successive matches.

As Thom Watt noted Dundee United appear to have rediscovered their groove in last weekend’s Scottish Cup win over St Mirren.

United gained significant joy down St Mirren’s right hand side and have profited from Kilmarnock’s weakness in the full-back positions this term.

Jackson Irvine has been moved to right back in recent weeks while Jeroen Tesselaar remains the first choice option on the left flank.

Gabriel Reuben made two of his three Kilmarnock appearances against United as Allan Johnston attempted to match the opposition’s mobility in midfield.

With Reuben’s departure and Alexei Eremenko’s arrival, Johnston has plenty of decisions to make over how to set his team up.SM

Will Hearts claim revenge on Inverness Caledonian Thistle for their cup exit?

Hearts have won their last two matches, and haven't managed three league victories in a row since January 2011. That a third successive win could take them within 16 points of the relegation play-off spot is largely moot, but there is an interesting subtext.

John Hughes' Inverness side came back from 2-1 down to force what seemed a highly unlikely penalty shoot-out victory over Hearts a fortnight ago. Gary Locke's team not only held the lead with seconds to go, but they had a vastly superior numerical advantage, with Gary Warren and Josh Meekings both having been sent off.

In extra-time, Hearts should have forced the issue, worn out their beleaguered opponents, and found their way to the League Cup Final. Instead, through a combination of tactical naivety and dogged determination, Inverness Caledonian Thistle soaked up what minimal pressure was applied, and rarely looked like the numerically disadvantaged side they were.

Two weeks on, and Hearts face a trip to the Highlands in their attempts to earn their third consecutive win, and take them back to the verge of "they couldn't, could they?" territory.

The odds are even less in the visitor's favour than they might have been in recent weeks. David Smith, whose delivery has been a real weapon in recent matches, is the latest to be sidelined with injury. Inverness have also held the Indian sign over the Gorgie side in recent years.

It's been two-and-a-half years since Hearts beat Inverness in the league, and it was September 2010 that they last won in the Highlands.

Inverness, of course, have their own priorities. There are League Cup final places at stake, and the small matter of Premiership business to attend to. It's easy to forget that while John Hughes' team are sitting fourth, they have two games in hand. Winning both would put them just two points behind Aberdeen in the race for second place. TW

Will Motherwell have benefitted from three week break?

The Steelmen return to action this weekend after a three-week break, taking on Partick Thistle at Fir Park.

Handed a free weekend during the League Cup semi-finals, last weekend’s Scottish Cup ties may have allowed Stuart McCall a brief moment to reflect on how far his side have come since their shock loss to Albion Rovers.

Celtic are the only side to have beaten them since, a run which saw McCall’s men record six successive league victories.

One of those triumphs was a 5-1 thumping of Thistle back on December 29.

The match was notable not only for the scoreline and the re-emergence of James McFadden but for the fact it is the only league game that John Sutton has not started all season.

Sutton scored the only goal in the first meeting between the teams this term and it remains to be seen if their recent break from action helps them.

Having hit their stride during what is arguably the most physically demanding part of the campaign, between Christmas and New Year, there is the potential for the team to be refreshed for the remainder of the season.

Henri Anier is one such player that seemed in need of a breather. The Estonian hasn’t started since the New Year’s Day win over St Johnstone but did contribute an assist during the 2-2 draw with Aberdeen.

A slip up against the league’s second bottom side may leave the home fans cursing the fixture gods.SM

Will Scottish Cup scars linger at Hibernian?

Terry Butcher was not keen to dwell on his team’s failings at the hands of Raith Rovers, preferring to focus on the nine cup finals facing his team until the league split.

In times of strife it is easiest to revert back to what you do best and this appears to be at the forefront of Butcher’s mind.

On Tuesday he spoke at length about sticking together and re-establishing the tough, resilient nature that marked his early weeks at Easter Road.

In his first seven matches in charge, Hibs only conceded two goals. In their last six matches they have shipped 14.

Hibs go into Saturday’s home game with Ross County, five points behind St Johnstone in the race for the top six.

It was against the Staggies, on November 30, that Butcher gained his first win as Hibs boss while his first league win also came against Derek Adams’ men on Boxing Day.

"Our season now is nine games, before the split," Butcher said.

"Each game is our own cup final and each game is an opportunity to pay back a lot of people and pay back ourselves.

"We need to show we are good players, that we are a good team and that we are all together in this.

"If that's enough to get us into the top six, that's like turning around our season."

Falling any further behind the Perth Saints will make life a whole lot tougher.SM

Will Neil Lennon keep faith with Georgios Samaras?

When Celtic’s team-sheet for Saturday’s cup clash with Aberdeen was announced, many expressed a mixture of surprise and disappointment that Samaras’ name was included in the starting eleven.

He may have set up Anthony Stokes for the opening goal but as so often, the 28-year-old drifted out of the game and was substituted after 63 minutes.

The Greek international remains a divisive figure among the Hoops support and as he continues to stall over a new deal, many are questioning his value to the side.

Samaras’ limp display followed a similarly ineffective appearance at Easter Road.

With both Cup competitions beyond Lennon's side, the Celtic boss has to use the remaining matches of 2013/14 to prepare for next season's campaign.

Younger players may be given the opportunity to step up, meaning the positions of several of this campaign's regulars will come under threat. Samaras is likely to be one of the first names replaced.

Having been replaced by Leigh Griffiths during the 2-1 loss, Neil Lennon may be tempted to give his top January signing his first start when St Johnstone come calling on Sunday.SM

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