How are Celtic & Rangers shaping up ahead of the new season?
The Scottish Premiership returns this weekend
After just under five months without any Scottish football, the Premiership returns on Saturday for the first weekend of the 2020/21 season.
At the end of the 2019/20 season, Celtic were awarded their ninth title in-a-row, finishing 13 points ahead of nearest challengers Rangers.
Rangers take on Aberdeen at Pittodrie at 12:30 on Saturday in the first match of the 2020/21 Scottish Premiership season, with Celtic hosting Hamilton Academical at Celtic Park at 16:30 on Sunday.
Steven Gerrard’s side will hope to go one better this season and claim a first top-flight league title since 2010/11. Neil Lennon’s Bhoys are on the hunt for their 10th successive league title.
Ahead of the action, we look to see how last year’s top two are shaping up before renewing their fierce rivalry on the field…
In their first full season since Brendan Rodgers left to take over Leicester City, Neil Lennon picked up where he had previously left off and guided his Celtic side to yet another top-flight title.
There’s been very little in the way of transfer dealings at Celtic Park, with just one confirmed loan signing so far. Lennon has brought Mohamed Elyounoussi back to Glasgow for another campaign after an impressive bit-part role during his first spell.
The Bhoys allowed six players to leave upon the expiry of their contracts too, including Craig Gordon and Jonny Hayes, both of whom have previously been instrumental to their success.
But as the famous saying goes, if it’s not broke, there’s no need to fix it. That could be exactly what’s running through Neil Lennon’s mind here, after dropping only 10 points in 30 matches on the way to their ninth title.
After allowing Gordon to leave, they could look to re-sign former goalkeeper Fraser Forster, who put in a highly impressive performance against Lazio in the Europa League while on-loan last campaign, as well as being the main reason for Celtic’s League Cup win over Rangers last term.
As well as bringing in Forster, the Hoops’ main target will be to keep hold of last season’s top goalscorer and player of the season Odsonne Édouard, who has regularly impressed since his 2019 transfer from Paris Saint-Germain.
With 46 goals from 81 league appearances at Celtic, Édouard has rightfully attracted interest from across Europe, including the likes of Arsenal according to recent reports. He’s 11/4 to be the league’s top scorer.
Pre-season preparations didn’t quite get off to the start the club had hoped for in the Veolia Trophy, where they played alongside OGC Nice, Olympique Lyonnais and Rangers.
The Old Firm wouldn’t renew their rivalries at the tournament, but instead, Celtic managed a 1-1 draw against OGC Nice, before falling to a 2-1 defeat to Lyon at the feet of their former striker Moussa Dembele.
Preparations continued with a 4-0 defeat to Ligue 1 champions PSG, before returning to action on home soil with a 2-0 win over Ross County and 3-1 victory over Hibernian.
The Bhoys still look to have the strength to compete at the top of the league, and our traders have them down as 4/9 favourites to claim their 10th title in-a-row.
Gers boss Steven Gerrard has done slightly more business in the transfer window, but after challenging on all fronts against last season, he clearly feels there’s no need for a complete overhaul.
Instead, he’s turned Ianis Hagi and Jermain Defoe’s loan spells at the club into permanent additions, with the former bringing an attacking flair to Ibrox that they’ve not seen for several years, while Defoe has added that predatory instinct in and around the box to compliment Alfredo Morelos.
They’ve also added Jon McLaughlin on a free transfer from Sunderland, after letting Jak Alnwick and Wes Foderingham leave at the end of the last campaign, while signing Leicester City youth player Calvin Bassey and poaching Leon Balogun from Wigan to shore up their defensive options.
Similarly, to their rivals, last season’s performances failed to highlight any real areas that need vast improvement. The focus of the Rangers board was to keep hold of young talents such as Ryan Kent, who can win a match all on his own on his day, while maintaining the goals of Morelos too.
The hot-headed Colombian front man has bagged 44 goals in 91 league matches, and while he poses a threat to opposition defences, his temperament still poses a threat to his own teammates.
He’s picked up six red cards in his Scottish Premiership career, a stat Gerrard will hope he can help Morelos put an end to. He’s 5/1 to finish as the league’s top scorer, with experienced teammate Defoe a 4/1 shot.
Rangers’ pre-season preparations can’t be faulted, with four wins from four matches including victory in the Veolia Trophy.
They started their preparations with a pair of 2-0 wins over Lyon and Nice, before returning to Ibrox with a resounding 4-0 win over Motherwell.
Their final friendly saw them beat League One champions Coventry City 2-0 at home thanks to goals from Joe Aribo and Connor Goldson.
If Rangers push on against this season, they could have their best chance of putting an end to Celtic’s recent dominance of Scottish football. We’ve got them priced at 7/4 to win this year’s Premiership title.
All odds and markets correct as of date of publication.