The world was witness to unprecedented scenes last season, owing to the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic. The football fraternity wasn’t immune to the threat as well, and domestic seasons had to be suspended around the world while keeping the safety of players and fans in mind.
Although action resumed in various parts of the world, including England, the Scottish Football Association walked a different path, allowing Neil Lennon and his Celtic side to lift a historic ninth league title in a row.
However, following a four-month-long break, football has finally returned to different stadiums across Scotland and both Glasgow giants, Celtic and Rangers, are desperate to win the Scottish Premiership title in 2020-21.
While for Celtic, it will be a unique opportunity to make it ten-in-a-row, for Rangers, it is all about stopping their bitter rivals from achieving the feat and winning their first title since getting back to the Scottish top flight.
Other teams are expected to be in the running as well, with Aberdeen looking to finish at least third team on the league table in order to be eligible for European football.
Aberdeen great, Drew Jarvie has highlighted the need for the Dons to give the top two a run for their money this season. He said in a recent interview with Aberdeen Evening Express,
“I’m hopeful that the Dons can compete and get a bit closer to Rangers and Celtic this season. Last season there was like three leagues within the Premiership. Rangers and Celtic going for the title, Aberdeen and Motherwell going for third and fourth and then a gap to the rest.”
Motherwell are also there with a chance, with the Steelmen finishing third in the Scottish Premiership last season.
So what awaits Celtic this season? Here, we will preview the Scottish champions’ season and predict where they could finish at the end of the 2020-21 campaign.
Slow transfer window for Celtic
Celtic haven’t been as active in the transfer market as their arch-rivals, Rangers. Although there is still plenty of time left to bring in players, Neil Lennon will be cautious about making too many changes to his winning combination.
So far, they have managed to sign just one player on a permanent basis with another coming on loan.
Following the expiration of Fraser Forster’s loan deal and veteran goalkeeper, Craig Gordon’s release, the Bhoys were in desperate need to find a new goalkeeper to provide competition to Scott Bain.
Therefore, Celtic brought in Vasilios Barkas from AEK Athens on a £5m deal, with the Greek international putting pen-to-paper on a four-year deal.
The 26-year-old featured in 20 of his side’s 26 league games last season, keeping ten clean sheets and will be hoping to do something of the same in Scotland this campaign.
After the completion of a successful loan spell at Celtic Park last term, it was a no brainer for Neil Lennon to bring in Mohamed Elyounoussi from Southampton on yet another season-long loan deal.
Following his return, the Norwegian forward said that he had received several positive messages from the fans, making it easier for him to settle for the second time. He said,
“Since the league stopped, I got a lot of positive messages from fans. They told me what they thought about me, and for me to take another year, and that made the choice even easier.”
Other Celtic targets
Two other names that have been doing the rounds over the last few days are that of Steven Fletcher and Albian Ajeti.
Former Hibernian and Sunderland striker, Fletcher is a free agent following his release from Sheffield Wednesday and can prove to be a valuable addition to Lennon’s side this season.
Swiss international Ajeti, on the other hand, can be a loan option after finding his chance limited At West Ham, following his arrival from FC Basel last season.
Neil Lennon while confirming the discussions said that they will have to wait and watch. Lennon said,
“Talks are ongoing at the minute. Nothing confirmed. We will just have to wait and see.”
Key players for Celtic
Time and again, Celtic players have stressed the importance of the skipper in their success. Departing star Jonny Hayes said in a recent interview that everyone in the team is influenced by him. He told Celtic View,
“I’ve never saw him unenthusiastic. If ever we get a bad result, he takes it on the chin as the captain, but he’s never ever come into training without a smile on his face. He is like the young kid in the changing room, but because of that everyone is influenced by him.”
Celtic defender, Christopher Jullien also heaped praise on the skipper. He said,
“He is just a spirit, everything. He will definitely be in my memory for a long time. I think he can be everything at this club.
“He gives his power and his mentality to all the players. I can just imagine doing it [managing] if he wants to. I think he has all the qualities. He has the mentality and he is really smart,”
The Manchester City academy graduate was voted Celtic’s Young Player of the Season last time around and the Bhoys are expecting much more from him in 2020-21.
The youngster featured in a total of 19 games for the Scottish champions last season, scoring two goals from the back and setting up three more for his team-mates.
At 19, he has years left in his career and if Celtic are to indeed win their ten-in-a-row, he is going to be a really important player in the Hoops set-up.
The former Paris Saint-Germain youngster enjoyed a successful campaign with the Bhoys last season, scoring 27 of his side’s 89 goals. He has been linked with a move away from the club, with the Premier League being his most favoured destination.
Former French Under-21 coach, Sylvain Rispoll has stressed the importance of Edouard going to a big European club to earn his international debut. He said,
“As for all French hopefuls playing at this level in an important club, it [a full French cap] is obviously a big objective for him. He has to keep working to still improve because he has all the capacities to do better and better.
“Celtic is an historic and very important club, but it is true that a big European championship can help to take him to the next level,”
However, the youngster has managed to keep his head down, netting a hat-trick in Celtic’s season opener against Hamilton.
James Forrest has been a silent contributor to the team’s success, serving Celtic unselfishly since his debut in 2010. Celtic skipper, Scott Brown has stressed Forrest’s importance in the team. He said,
“For me, Jamesy is the underdog here. He can go a long, long way further yet. He’s only 28 at the moment, just about to turn 29, and has plenty of years to go winning trophies. He has been incredible and a breath of fresh air every time he steps on that park.
“The things he can do with a ball are something else with his pace and power.”
Forrest featured in all but two games in the league for the Bhoys last season, scoring 10 goals and providing 17 assists. He will be an extremely important player for Celtic this season too.
Expected Finish: Winners
In spite of Rangers showing real intent by enjoying a positive pre-season and bringing in a number of quality players, Celtic still remain favourites to win the Scottish Premiership title for the tenth season in a row.
The squad is full of winners, with skipper Scott Brown himself being the most important influence. Celtic have it in them to negotiate the threats posed by Rangers and others and win yet another league title at the end of the season.