Saturday, June 19, 2021
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The latest football news from 90 Minutes Online

Scottish Premiership expects same old Celtic domination

Scottish Premiership logo (via Daily Record)Well, season 2015/16 is underway, and it will come as no surprise to learn that Celtic are huge favourites to make it 5 Premiership league titles on the bounce next May.



In fact, odds of 1/33 against that eventuality appear ridiculous, not to mention a little unkind on the likes of Aberdeen, who continue to make steady if unspectacular progress as genuine challengers to Celtic’s monopoly of the game north of the border.


Themselves a 20/1 shot, Aberdeen will of course privately concede that Celtic will be champions again this season. Last year, the Dons did muster a decent challenge, keeping the league race alive beyond the turn of the year, even if in truth they were ultimately little more than a pest (rather than actual contenders) to the Glasgow giants.


Celtic, of course, harbour ambitions well beyond the confines of the Scottish game, and manager Ronny Deila is clearly desperate to ensure his side takes its place among the elite of the Champions League this winter.


When the league title is considered a formality, success is measured on the European front for Celtic, a script we’ve read every summer since Rangers’ demise a few years back. The story thus far: Celtic fail to qualify for the Champions League group stages, and flounder around the Europa League until beyond Christmas, when the first decent side they encounter put them out of their misery.


Meanwhile, their top players become as restless as the fans, bored by the mundane requirements of securing sufficient points to ensure another shot at the big time next year. This promises to be the narrative for some time to come, as for all Rangers seem to be finally getting their act together off the pitch, a genuine challenge to their old rivals is surely, at best, three years down the line.


Deila is smart enough to know that, following last summer’s debacle, when his side was eliminated twice from the qualifying stage of the biggest club tournament of them all, he needs to ensure Celtic do feast at the European top table this time. Of course, the £20m or so that swells the coffers would come in handy, but the fans need to have some big European occasions to look forward to, otherwise dwindling attendances will once again follow as the dark nights begin to arrive.


For now, Malmo stand between Deila and his chance to pit his wits against the big boys. He claims that his team is ready for such an eventuality, a dubious boast but a well-intended one nonetheless.


Meanwhile, back to the bread and butter of the domestic game, and the question of whether anyone can join Aberdeen in having the temerity to ask questions of Celtic, for a while at least.


Motherwell, St Johnstone, the Dundee clubs? Forget that. What of Hearts, the early pacemakers who have so far made a mockery of the fact that they have just bounced back to the Premiership and therefore were considered to have no loftier ambition than top six status this season?


Three wins on the bounce would suggest that Robbie Neilson’s men mean business, though it remains to be seen how long this form lasts.


Deila’s assistant at Celtic, John Collins, put the cat among the pigeons recently by suggesting that Celtic get punished for playing an expansive game in Europe, whereas no Scottish sides are good enough to take advantage of it. Quite a few Scottish club managers have expressed their unhappiness about Collins’ remarks, suggesting his words were disrespectful.


Perhaps Collins’ words were ill-advised in that regard, but what he said was correct, and if this spurs on a few hitherto dormant clubs to up their game when they play Celtic then so be it. Improved competition (with a bit of bad blood thrown in for good measure!) is what we need right now to fill the void created by a one horse title race with only the cup competitions offering any chance of a shock or two.


Meanwhile, Southamption have been credited with an interest in Celtic’s outstanding centre half, Virgil Van Dyke. A cheque in he region of £7m will ensure the Dutchman is packing his bags in order to fulfil his ambition of playing in the English Premier League, and with it enhancing his international prospects. Of course, if Celtic were to overcome Malmo, the club and Van Dyke would have a decision to make with regard to whether he sticks around for what the Champions League has to offer.


Either way, ridiculous as it seems, clubs such as Aberdeen and Hearts will be secretly hoping that Celtic are suitably embroiled in the Champions League groups stage this year. The rationale being that they might just take their eye off the ball in the league for a while.


Of course, sad to say that, even were that to happen, the impact would not lead to another club winning the league, so much as the points differential in the end being less than embarrassingly wide.



A new season, but it all sounds rather familiar so far.

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