Scottish football: Season 2013-14 mid-term report

As the Scottish football season crosses into the new year, BBC Scotland assesses the state of play.

Scottish Premiership

How things stand: Unsurprisingly, Celtic lead the top flight and are on course for a third straight title. Hearts are very much adrift at the bottom having started the season with a 15-point deduction because of insolvency problems.

Inverness striker Billy McKay

Billy McKay's goals have helped Inverness stay in contention for European qualification

What happens next: Barring an almighty turnaround at either end of the table, the real battle will be for top-six places - and then European qualification, with Aberdeen, Dundee United and Motherwell among the main contenders. Ross County have had a disappointing first half of the season and though they have a big advantage over Hearts, they will be desperate to avoid finishing second-bottom and entering the promotion-relegation play-offs.

Surprise package: Inverness maintained second place in the division for much of the first half of the season and are still very much in contention for a European place, despite manager Terry Butcher's switch to Hibernian. John Hughes is the man tasked with bettering last season's fourth-place finish.

Scottish Championship

How things stand: Dundee and Hamilton Academical have both had spells at the summit in recent weeks with Raith Rovers, Falkirk and Alloa Athletic not far behind in a division that is typically keenly contested.

Hamilton's James Keatings and Dundee's Nicky Riley

Tussle at the top: Hamilton and Dundee are vying for the Scottish Championship title

What happens next: The eventual champions will gain automatic promotion but for those who miss out, there's the added incentive of entering the promotion-relegation play-offs, which will culminate in a two-legged final against the side finishing second-bottom in the Premiership.

Surprise package: Greenock Morton finished second in the league last season but have struggled so far this term and recently changed manager. Kenny Shiels faces the challenge of lifting the Cappielow club off the bottom, with second-bottom at least offering salvation via the play-offs.

Scottish League One

How things stand: Rangers are way out in front at the top of the division and look well placed to clinch a second straight promotion. Airdrieonians, in contrast, need a big change in their fortunes if they are to avoid a second successive demotion.

Rangers players celebrating

Well ahead: Rangers have dominated Scottish League One

What happens next: Dunfermline are among those vying for a play-off place and, with the Pars recently having exited administration, promotion would bring a welcome financial boost.

Surprise package: Stranraer finished five points above the relegation zone last season but find themselves in the top four and bidding for the play-offs. The Stair Park outfit became the first team to take league points off Rangers this season when they drew at Ibrox on Boxing Day.

Scottish League Two

How things stand: There has been very little between the top two this season, with Clyde and Peterhead each holding the lead at various stages. The battle for play-off places is also very competitive, with several teams in contention.

Clyde manager Jim Duffy

Much improved: Jim Duffy's Clyde have started the season well

What happens next: Very difficult to predict with only a handful of points separating top and mid-table.

Surprise package: The performances of Clyde and Queen's Park have been quite a contrast from their respective campaigns last term. Clyde finished second-bottom last season but now find themselves challenging for the title. Queen's Park were in the promotion play-offs at the end of 2012-13 but now prop up the division and recently parted with manager Gardner Speirs.

Scottish League Cup

How things stand: The semi-final stage of the competition takes place in February, with Aberdeen taking on St Johnstone, and Hearts facing Inverness.

Hearts midfielder Jamie Walker and Inverness midfielder Ross Draper

Familiar foes: Hearts will take on Inverness in a repeat of last season's semi-final

What happens next: Both semi-finals will take place in Edinburgh with Scotland's national stadium, Hampden Park, undergoing renovation ahead of next year's Commonwealth Games. A venue for the final will be confirmed in due course.

Surprise package: Given Hearts' financial problems and lowly position in the Premiership, their second straight semi-final appearance has defied the odds somewhat but Greenock Morton's victory at Celtic Park earlier in the tournament was by far the biggest shock.

Scottish Cup

Albion Rovers players Gary Phillips and Ryan Tiffney

Giant killers: How far can Albion Rovers go in the Scottish Cup?

How things stand: The last 16 comprises seven Premiership sides, three from the Championship, five League One sides and League Two's Albion Rovers.

What happens next: The eight ties will take pace across the weekend of 7-9 February and, in the event of draws, replays will take place soon after.

Surprise package: Albion Rovers caused the shock of the fourth round by eliminating Lanarkshire rivals and Premiership side Motherwell; they face Stenhousemuir next.

Scottish Challenge Cup

How things stand: Raith Rovers and Rangers have reached the final.

What happens next: The winner will be decided at Easter Road on 6 April.

Surprise package: Highland League side Formartine United raised a few eyebrows en route to the quarter-finals, at which stage they were eliminated.

Scotland

Scotland coach Gordon Strachan

One year in: Strachan became Scotland coach early in 2013

How things stand: The dream of reaching the 2014 World Cup ended long before the conclusion of Scotland's qualifying campaign but morale-boosting wins over Croatia and Macedonia, and a friendly victory against Norway, boosted Gordon Strachan's side, who ended 2013 in 34th in the Fifa rankings.

What happens next: A trip to Warsaw for a friendly against Poland in March. By then, Scotland will know who they will face in the Euro 2016 qualifiers.

Surprise package: Watford's Ikechi Anya only made his international debut in September but has since notched his first Scotland goal and become a regular in Strachan's team.