Scottish Premiership: Kilmarnock and Aberdeen battle for third and Euro spot

Steve Clarke and Derek McInnes
Kilmarnock boss Clarke and Aberdeen manager McInnes are battling to finish third
Scottish Premiership top-six finale
Date: Sunday, 19 May Kick-off: 15:00 BST
Coverage: Listen to BBC Radio Scotland and follow live text commentary on the BBC Sport Scotland website

They were both vying for the Scotland job and now the Scottish Premiership's remaining European place is the prize at stake for Steve Clarke and Derek McInnes.

It's a straight fight between Clarke's Kilmarnock and McInnes' Aberdeen for third place in the Scottish Premiership on Sunday.

The teams are locked on 64 points, with Kilmarnock third thanks to a superior goal difference of six, and both face difficult final fixtures.

Kilmarnock host Rangers, who have won their last six games, while Aberdeen visit a Hibernian side unbeaten at home in the league under Paul Heckingbottom.

To finish third, Aberdeen effectively must better Kilmarnock's result.

This will be the first season in five years Aberdeen have finished lower than second. And they were in pole position for third when a 1-0 win at Kilmarnock put McInnes' men three points clear with just four games to play. Back-to-back defeats to the Old Firm then proved costly, though, as Kilmarnock capitalised with wins two of their next three games.

The Sunday shoot-out could well be Clarke's last act as Rugby Park manager, with the Scottish FA set to name the new Scotland manager early next week and McInnes having ruled himself out.

Scottish Premiership top six

Euro lifeline hinges on Celtic

Finishing fourth in the top flight might yet be enough to earn a Europa League place, with the spot reserved for the Scottish Cup going to the league should Celtic beat Hearts in Saturday's final.

There will be a dress rehearsal or sorts for the Hampden showpiece on Sunday when the champions host the Tynecastle side before being presented with the trophy.

The Parkhead encounter will lack key players on both sides and likely intensity, too. Hearts manager Craig Levein has said he will name "a younger squad, definitely," and Neil Lennon will also make changes with both managers firmly focused on cup glory.

What the managers say

Kilmarnock assistant Alex Dyer: "The club has come on big strides. We've surpassed everything we went out to do this season. We wanted to get into the top six, which we have. We wanted to pass last season's points tally and now if we can get into Europe, that's just a bonus. We can't worry about what Aberdeen do at Hibs."

Aberdeen manager Derek McInnes: "It's important to try finish with a win and see where it takes us. We've got the motivation and the players coming back. Hopefully the team can deliver the performance we're capable of. For us to stay above Hearts and Hibs is really pleasing and we've done that over the years time and again."

Match stats

BBC Sport
  • Kilmarnock have won back-to-back league games, both 1-0, and are looking to win three on the bounce for the first time since January, when the third win in the run was at home against Rangers
  • Aberdeen have won four of their last six league games, having won just four in 12 before that
  • The Pittodrie side have made just 65 changes to their starting line-ups across their Premiership matches this season, fewer than any other club.

Team news

Jordan Jones will not get to make a final appearance for Kilmarnock against the side he will be joining this summer. The Northern Ireland winger has agreed a pre-contract switch to Rangers but a shoulder injury keeps him out on Sunday. Midfielder Adam Frizzell is sidelined with a foot injury and defender Scott Boyd misses out with a knee problem.

Aberdeen winger Gary Mackay-Steven could make his comeback from a calf injury suffered against Rangers in early March. Goalkeeper Joe Lewis has been given the all-clear to play after a knee injury scare in last week's win over Hearts, while Connor McLennan is also back in contention after a hamstring injury. Niall McGinn (ankle), Tommie Hoban (knee) and Frank Ross (back) are still missing.

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