Scottish Premiership 2023/24 Season Preview [Expert Analysis]
Celtic are in pole position to claim a third Scottish Premiership title in succession – but after a summer of dramatic changes both with the Hoops and rivals Rangers, there is a degree of uncertainty hanging over both clubs as the season looms.
Between them, Celtic and Rangers have won every Scottish league title since 1985 and that is not about to change this season. Although the likes of Aberdeen, Hearts and Hibs will scrap hard for third, there remains a gulf between these clubs and Glasgow’s finest. One way or another, everyone accepts the title will be going back to the banks of the Clyde.
Celtic the favourites
Celtic will start the season as favourites. The Parkhead club have seen the departure of highly popular manager Ange Postecoglou to Tottenham and the return of Brendan Rodgers after a spell in the English Premier League with Leicester. With Postecoglou saying goodbye, the breakneck style of football that produced 114 goals for last season may well go, too.
The relent may only be partial. During Rodgers’ previous spell, Celtic were still averaging close to 2.4 goals scored per league match, while they have twice netted four times in pre-season matches already. This has been achieved despite losing Jota, who scored 11 league goals and created 10 more last season.
Although Kyogo Furuhashi is clearly Celtic’s leading scorer, the Hoops otherwise have goals throughout their team. This was true under Postecoglou and looks set to be the same with this Rodgers squad. At the time of writing, they had seven different scorers of their nine pre-season goals. This will be a strength as the season wears on as it makes them more robust against injuries and suspensions.
Celtic Top League Scorers 2022/23
* departed the club
Furthermore, the Hoops have not, so far, lost too many members of last season’s title-winning squad. Jota has gone to the Saudi Pro League and Aaron Mooey has retired, but the core of Postecoglou’s successful team remains, providing valuable stability even amidst a managerial change.
— Celtic Football Club (@CelticFC) July 22, 2023
Rangers’ rebuild looks confused
Across the city at Ibrox, meanwhile, Rangers have experienced more significant changes in their playing staff as manager Michael Beale gets his second transfer window to work on the squad. Numerous well-established players have departed, with winger Ryan Kent, goalkeeper Allan McGregor, exciting midfielder Malik Tillman and mercurial striker Alfredo Morelos, scorer of 124 Rangers goals, all departing.
Beale has primarily had to reconstruct his attack and has signed three players to bolster his offensive ranks. Interestingly, Cyriel Dessers, Sam Lammers and Abdallah Sima, who are the new arrivals, managed a total of only 18 goals between them last season in all competitions and all played for relegated clubs. They continue to pursue Feyenoord striker Danilo, too.
But while Rangers have added to their artillery over the summer, no clear pattern of play is yet obvious from their pre-season games. Beale appears to favour a 4-2-2-2 system with his new personnel, but just how everyone will fit into that is a question that he appears not to have worked out the answer to.
👏 The Young Team pic.twitter.com/8KFrm7nHZ3
— Rangers Football Club (@RangersFC) July 22, 2023
Early weeks crucial
And the Gers really need to hit the ground running this season to stand a chance in the title race. Celtic, after all, only seriously faltered last term once the crown was secured, while Rodgers’ uneasy relationship with the fans following his controversial 2019 departure to Leicester could exploit cracks in the Parkhead club if they were to face an early season deficit.
Old Firm date: Scottish Premiership 2023/24
|3 September, 2023||Rangers v Celtic|
|30 December, 2023||Celtic v Rangers|
|6 April, 2024||Rangers v Celtic|
For this reason, the Old Firm fixture on 3 September – the first of three scheduled for the regular season – carries additional significance.
Should Rangers get an early advantage, they stand a chance of dethroning Celtic, but if the Hoops make a quicker start, the prospects of their advantage being turned around look slim. At present, odds of 1.75 on the Parkhead club look very generous indeed and the best bet before the season begins.