Scottish Premier League: Outright Preview

Players compete for football

Our Scottish Premier League writer takes a look at whether or not anyone can stop Celtic's dominance of the division.  

It’s easy to forget among all of the hype of the Premier League and – to a much, much lesser extent – the EFL Championship, that the Scottish Premier League rules supreme in the north.

Of course, Celtic are the overwhelming favourites to claim their 49th league title in the 2017/18 season following last term’s Invincibles campaign which saw the Bhoys go unbeaten domestically as they claimed league honours and both domestic cups.

To Win Outright
Celtic 1/16 | Rangers 10/1 | Aberdeen 20/1 | Hibernian 200/1 | Hearts 250 /1 | St Johnstone 1000/1

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Celtic
It’ll take divine intervention or a massive administrative cock-up – think Rangers – for Brendan Rodgers’ side to let the league title slip away. Domestically speaking, the Bhoys were unstoppable last term sealing the domestic treble without losing a game beating Aberdeen in both the League Cup and Scottish Cup finals.

It seems only fitting that last season’s remarkable campaign happened to fall on the 50th anniversary of the 1967 European Cup winning side dubbed the Lisbon Lions.

Rodgers has assembled a formidable side with Moussa Dembele’s and Scott Sinclair’s partnership in the final third very much the focal point of the team. The two routinely tore apart opposition defences with Dembele’s performances attracting interest from some Europe’s biggest clubs. As it stands, he’s out until September with a hamstring issue but has indicated that he will remain at Celtic Park for this season to continue his development.

Scott Brown will lead the side once again this season. The terrier-like midfielder is the heartbeat of the side consistently churning out the kind of combative performances that allow the forward players the freedom they need to keep banging in the goals.

Rodgers has been pretty shrewd in the transfer market so far with 21-year-old Olivier Ntcham arriving from Manchester City for just under five million Pounds. Kundai Benyu – a relatively unknown midfielder from Ipswich’s U21 setup – was also brought in.

Another astute acquisition came in the form on Jonny Hayes who joins the side on a three-year deal. The winger scored 10 goals in all competitions last season for Aberdeen and will add some much-needed depth Celtic’s attacking options.

The Challengers

Aberdeen
Aberdeen are the only side who could potentially give Celtic a scare this season. Despite finishing 30 points behind their cross town neighbours last term and losing both cup finals, the Dons gave a good account of themselves in the league winning 24 of their 38 matches.

While I don’t think they can harbour any realistic hopes of league glory, they can definitely take points off Celtic. In terms of their transfer business, they’ve kept it pretty safe only moving for players who have experience in British conditions.

I’m most impressed with their capture of Kári Árnason, a name familiar to those who followed the incredible journey of Iceland at Euro 2016. The no-nonsense centre-half is vastly experienced and will help shore up an already solid back four.

Rangers
Gers simply can’t stand up to the might of Celtic and appear to be falling behind Aberdeen as was highlighted in last season’s campaign. They’ve not started this season particularly well, crashing out of the Europa League in the qualification stage. Lee Wallace and his boys were sunk by the mighty Progrès Niederkorn from the proud footballing nation of Luxembourg.

Still, the absence of European football will probably do Pedro Caixinha’s charges a world of good as they can now focus on things domestically. I really don’t think they have any chance of stopping Celtic from claiming a seventh straight league title, although, if they box smart there’s no reason they can’t challenge in the domestic cups.

The Portuguese gaffer hasn’t made the best acquisitions in my eyes with the likes of an ageing Bruno Alves and Graham Dorrans coming in. There are a couple of unknowns making their way into the fray, many of them coming from fringes of Portuguese top flight clubs like Porto and Benfica.

Clearly Caixinha thinks he can unearth some raw talent from one of Europe’s more exotic leagues. We’ve seen this plan backfire spectacularly in the past with Blackburn Rovers bringing in a number of Portuguese players after their relegation from the Premier League – a plan that failed spectacularly as Rovers continued decline has seen them slip to the third tier of English football.

That said, Caixinha clearly has a better knowledge of Portuguese football than that of Steve Kean who presided over Blackburn under the leadership of the Venky’s Group. Realistically, Rangers will need to focus on the cup competitions as well as giving a better account of themselves in the upcoming Old Firm matches.

The last six matches between Rangers and Celtic have seen Rangers claim a solitary draw, losing the other five ties – two of them finishing 5-1. Whether or not the long-suffering Rangers fans will receive any reprieve from the consistent hammerings at the hands of Celtic remains to be seen.

Verdict: Celtic 1/16
This was never really in doubt. If you want to make things a bit more interesting take Celtic to win the SPL along with Juventus, PSG, Benfica and Bayern Munich to all their respective leagues at around 9/2. 

Written by Jason Dewey for @Hollywoodbets.net

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