The never ending year of football continues this weekend with the kick-off of the Scottish Premiership 2020/21 campaign. Frankie Monkhouse sizes up the outright betting...
"Rangers are 9/5 second favourites on the Betfair Sportsbook to win the Scottish Premiership and in a two-horse race many will prefer the bigger price runner."
Time to shine
Scottish football gets the chance to call peace on a summer civil war and put on a show under increased interest when the league kicks off this weekend. Bitter rivals Aberdeen and Rangers clash at Pittodrie in the early afternoon start to bring the curtain up on what will be an historic season.
A decision by SPFL boss Neil Doncaster and his men to cut short the 2019/20 campaign due to the coronavirus emergency and settle places on an average points per game scheme whipped up a rammy that rumbled on all summer.
Celtic were confirmed nine-in-a-row champions with Hearts relegated to the Championship despite only 30 games being played. The Jambos took their case all the way to the SFA, but the original decision was upheld. The emphasis north of the border is now on moving forward as one and promoting the game to the wider football loving public.
Lennon promises new arrivals
Neil Lennon and his Celtic team stand on the edge of greatness as they target what would be a record-breaking 10th Scottish top tier title in-a-row. The Hoops have dominated in recent years, winning domestic trebles in each of the last three seasons. The fact last season's Scottish Cup will be played to a conclusion early this term gives them a crack at the quadruple treble. Getting the 10 and setting a new standard is what everyone connected to the Parkhead club wants to see, however.
The Bhoys haven't been nearly as active in the transfer market this summer as fans would have hoped. Many supporters want to see a goalkeeper brought in before long to offer serious competition between the sticks while adding a striker also sits high on the wish list.
Lennon promised fans new faces were on the way and Athens shot-stopper Vasilis Barkas will join before kick-off in a £5.5m deal. Peterborough striker Ivan Toney shouldn't be too far behind if reports in the media are to be believed.
Bhoys target the perfect start
Celtic unfurl the league flag at home against Hamilton on Sunday and that gets the ball rolling on what will be a hectic August for the side. They trip to Kilmarnock in week two before going to St Mirren, hosting Aberdeen, playing newly promoted Dundee Utd at Tannadice and finishing the month with a home game against Motherwell.
With their opening three against teams who finished in the bottom five last season, Lennon will expect his men to get off to a strong start and set the pace for the year ahead with nine points from a possible nine. The Betfair Sportsbook has Celtic as favourites for the Scottish Premiership title, traders offering 2/5.
Gers crave consistency
After a couple of failed attempts the pressure is now on Rangers manager Steven Gerrard to deliver a 55th Scottish championship to Rangers fans and wreck the dreams of their bitter rivals across the city. Gers showed improvements last season and rattled the champions with a rare win at Celtic Park late last year, but a lack of consistency saw them fall off the pace in 2020. Points dropped in important games meant their challenge proved to be little more than a damp squib, much to the frustration and disbelief of regulars at Ibrox.
All will be forgotten if Gerrard and his team can bounce back and win the club's first league title since 2011. Fans have already played their part, purchasing season tickets in record numbers despite knowing games at Ibrox could be played behind closed doors for some months to come. We may not see a capacity stadium until 2021.
Cash pumped into the club has allowed Gerrard to do something not many managers in Scotland have been able to in recent months, spend on new signings. Ianis Hagi, son of Romanian star Gheorghe, is a 21-year-old attacking midfielder with a bright future ahead of him. He impressed during a loan spell at the club from Genk last season and Gerrard saw enough to make the move permanent this summer, signing Hagi on a long-term deal.
Winning start important for Gerrard
Rangers journey to Pittodrie for a 12:30pm kick-off against Aberdeen and another fiery encounter is expected. That tie comes just days before the blues jet off to play Bayer Leverkusen in the rearranged Europa League Round of 16. When returning to domestic action Rangers are scheduled to host St Mirren and St Johnstone, visit Livingston, welcome Kilmarnock before rounding off August with an away game at Hamilton.
With two of his first three league matches played at Ibrox, Gerrard will want to build momentum. They face a tricky opener against the Dons but it's a match they must win if the team want to be regarded as serious title challengers. Rangers are 9/5 second favourites on the Betfair Sportsbook to win the Scottish Premiership and in a two-horse race many will prefer the bigger price runner.