Sunday, August 9, 2020

The Scottish Preview: Celtic to make history? Or can Rangers make a serious charge?

Tom Dunstan in Editorial, Scottish Premier League 29 Jul 2020

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While the Premier League may have finally entered a well-deserved summer break, that doesn’t mean that we’re short of action from North of the border.

With all eyes falling on the Scottish Premiership’s return from behind closed doors this weekend, one of Europe’s most historic rivalries will start a new chapter, and the chance to make history is on the line this year.

Ahead of defending champions Celtic hosting Hamilton in Glasgow and Rangers making a tough season-opening trip to Pittodrie on Saturday lunchtime, we have taken a look at what are the big talking points ahead of Scottish football’s return to action.

Celtic eyeing 10-in-a-row

While their bitter rivals might have been disappointed to see last year’s campaign brought to an early halt, Celtic were awarded another Premiership title without playing out any of their final eight appearances.

Still, believing that they were more than worthy of reclaiming their crown, Neil Lennon’s side did find themselves holding a 13-point buffer at the top of the table and now have their sights firmly set on creating more history this season.

Already priced at 1/2 with 888sport to extend on their era of dominance, fans around Glasgow know that if they can do the job one more time, they will become the first Scottish side in history to lift the title for 10 seasons on the bounce.

While all the pressure might rightfully be on their shoulders this year, Celtic are a side who know they will be heading into the new campaign without one of their most influential performers.

Making a loan move from Premier League outfit Southampton last summer, they could not manage to convince Fraser Forster to make his move to Celtic Park a permanent one.

Cementing his spot as a fan favourite and one of their top performers, many feel that the 33-year-old was arguably the biggest factor in Lennon’s side reclaiming their crown.

With their season opener against Hamilton fast approaching, the defending champions appear to be inching closer to a £5million deal for AEK Athens keeper, Vasilis Barkas.

Although Celtic might have been disappointed to have seen the former England shot-stopper make his move back to the South Coast, they have managed to keep hold of their most prized possessions, for now at least.

While he might still be heavily linked with a potential summer switch to Arsenal, Odsonne Edouard has proven himself to be arguably Scottish football’s MVP during his tenure in Glasgow.

Bagging 22 Premiership goals prior to the enforced break and lifting the Golden Boot, the 22-year-old was voted the SFWA Footballer of the Year and will undoubtedly play another vital role in Celtic’s charge for history.

The biggest factor behind a Hoops side that scored a staggering 89 goals prior to the interruption, Edouard is already priced at 2/1 with Unibet to reclaim his mantle of top goalscorer this season.

No Morelos, no title charge for Rangers?

Although Rangers might still find themselves battling it out in this year’s Europa League, fans around Ibrox are desperate for their side to mount what is a much-needed title charge.

While Steven Gerrard’s side might appear to have made a string of improvements since the former Liverpool icon took charge back in 2018, they still remain some way off seriously challenging their arch-rivals.

Sadly for Gerrard, the numbers don’t look promising. When last season was brought to a premature end, Rangers were 13 points behind Celtic. The year before that, the gap was nine. And nine again the season before that.

Already priced at 2/1 with 888sport to lift their first domestic crown since 2011, Rangers have also been dealt a huge blow with the news that talisman Alfredo Morelos looks set to be ending his tenure in Scotland.

Despite showing a string of behavioral issues on and off the pitch, the 24-year-old has proven to be Rangers’ leading source of inspiration since making the move from HJK Helsinki in 2017.

With 44 goals in 91 Scottish Premiership appearances for Gerrard’s side, news broke earlier in the week that Morelos has agreed on personal terms with Ligue 1 side Lille and the two clubs are now negotiating a fee for the Colombia international.

With Morelos’ move away from Ibrox inching closer, it appears that Gerrard will now almost be fully calling on one of his former England colleagues to lead their charge this season.

While they might still be sweating over his fitness for Saturday’s trip to Pittodrie, Jermaine Defoe will know that he has a tremendous amount of pressure on his shoulders this year.

Even though Edouard might have bagged nine more Premiership strikes than the 37-year-old veteran during the 2019/2020 campaign, he has proven to be a wise investment since initially joining on loan last year.

Recording 21 goals in his 31 appearances for the Blues across all competitions, Defoe also finished last year’s campaign averaging a goal every 77 minutes, the best record in the division. You might be interested to know that Rangers’ new attacking MVP is priced at 5/1 with Unibet to lift his first Scottish Golden Boot this season.

In a campaign that will prove to be a historic one no matter who lifts the title next summer, are Rangers and Gerrard in a serious position to mount a genuine charge this year?

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Tom Dunstan


Formerly of The Independent, Tom is a freelance football and boxing journalist from Essex, England. Currently working for three online publications, Tom is a graduate of the University of Falmouth and has spent the last two years writing across Australia, New Zealand and Asia. He can be followed at @IamTomDunstan

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