With the SPL fixtures announced, another top flight season in Scotland is just around the corner, but will the upcoming campaign mirror the previous one? Champions Celtic kick off their title defence with a grudge match at home to Hearts, while fierce rivals Rangers travel to Motherwell on the opening day.
After a magnificent undefeated season for Brendan Rodgers and Celtic, it is highly unlikely that their heroics will be repeated, yet it is equally unlikely that anyone can knock them off their perch at the top of the table. As we hit the end of June and enter a hugely significant July, most sides will have acquired their final squads as the season kicks off on August 5th.
Rodgers is currently preparing his side for a potential feisty encounter against Irish Premiership Champions Linfield in what would be the beginning of their Champions League qualifying campaign, and so this is essentially pre-season for a side looking to win yet another league title. The Bhoys admittedly would like to focus on Champions League progression from the group along with another successful SPL campaign, and so will this distract them in their endeavours? A seventh successive crown looms, but who – if anyone – can steal their limelight?
Aberdeen will once again be certain title challengers, yet the loss of playmaker Jonny Hayes to none other than Celtic is a huge hindrance, while several others are on the move, including Niall McGinn to a possible English Championship side, which means the Dons need to rebuild after a hectic summer. Celtic have of course lost talented youngster Patrick Roberts to parent club Manchester City, while the future of goal scoring sensation Moussa Dembele is in doubt as he is wanted by countless clubs south of the border.
Rangers meanwhile have made a number signings, with manager Pedro Caixinha relying on his foreign contacts with Mexico internationals Carlos Pena and Eduardo Herrera arriving at Ibrox, along with several other big-name signatures including Bruno Alves. Once again, however, they will fall short, along with Aberdeen, as Celtic search for an incredible seventh successive title.
Top scorer and Burton Albion record signing Liam Boyce has made the move from the north of Scotland as Ross County will surely struggle without their main man, while the award winners at the end of the season could potentially all be Celtic representatives should they have a similarly successful campaign.
Important dates to bear in mind include, obviously, the Old Firm league meetings. Rangers host the first grudge match in late September, while the second meeting at Ibrox takes place in March. The return tie takes place at Celtic Park at the end of the year, in a tricky festive period for the Champions as they face Aberdeen a week prior. Another derby returns to Scotland as Hibernian take on Hearts in October at Easter Road, while Hearts host Hibs in the second Edinburgh derby during the festive period.
Expect another campaign filled with trophies for Celtic, but don’t write off other clubs challenging for an elusive title. Newly promoted Hibernian will be looking to trouble the club once managed by their current boss Neil Lennon, although the loss of Jason Cummings to Nottingham Forest will be a sore one, while their Edinburgh rivals Hearts will also be looking to improve after a disappointing 2016/17 campaign. St Johnstone are always strong, with talented manager Tommy Wright constantly impressing struggling clubs in England and indeed throughout the rest of Scotland.