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Scottish Premiership Picks: Celtic v Hearts, Tavernier & Levein

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It’s not often that lightning strikes twice, never mind three times, in a single season for non-Old Firm sides against Glasgow’s big two.

However, Hearts have the chance to make it a hat-trick of victories over Celtic for the first time since October 1961, when they went on to win five in a row.

It is also that long since the Edinburgh side won consecutive league games at Celtic Park, their 2-0 win in December being their first in 24 visits. It also ended a run of 14 straight defeats there.

This is a Hearts side with a renewed confidence that they can compete with the Old Firm, even if Steven Naismith’s side fell short of their own expectations in the recent Scottish Cup semi-final against Rangers.

Nevertheless, while Hearts’ results since beating the reigning champions 2-0 at Tynecastle in early March have been a bit up and down, Celtic have gone on another seven-game unbeaten run, winning six of them.

It is a repeat of the scenario after Hearts won by the same scoreline at Celtic Park in December, so Rangers fans will no doubt be viewing this as the best chance of Brendan Rodgers’ side slipping up outside of the forthcoming Old Firm derby.

The Northern Irishman’s side have, though, done enough in recent weeks to take advantage of Rangers’ own blips to re-establish a three-point lead.

While their performances have still been viewed as steady rather than scintillating, Celtic have now won six of their latest seven home league matches, scoring two or more goals in five of those victories.

They have found the net an average of three times per game since that last defeat by Hearts, with veteran winger James Forrest the latest to chip in with three in two matches.

In contrast, Hearts goal machine Lawrence Shankland, who scored in both their recent wins over Celtic, has only added one to his season’s tally in his last eight outings.

Naismith’s side will be looking to the Scotland striker to help avoid a third straight game without scoring as they look for the victory that will officially end Kilmarnock’s hopes of catching them in third place.

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