Scottish Premiership preview: Can anyone topple Celtic in Scotland?

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With Brendan Rodgers' side seeking a seventh-straight title, Goal looks ahead to what lies in store in the Premiership this coming season

Celtic enjoyed a season of unrivalled dominance in Scotland last year, negotiating the entire domestic campaign without suffering a single defeat.

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However, as the Parkhead side chase a seventh straight crown in hopes of eventually reaching a record breaking 10 successive top-flight titles, they face a renewed challenge from a Rangers club rammed with new faces but apparently struggling in transition. 

It seems that the real race is for second place, with the Ibrox outfit set to squabble with Aberdeen.

Games kick off August 5 and Goal has your complete guide to the upcoming Scottish Premiership season.


WHO ARE THE STARS OF THE PREMIERSHIP?


Kieran Tierney Celtic

Celtic hold a monopoly on many of the best players in the league. Last season saw the emergence of striker Moussa Dembele, who is reputedly worth in the region of £20 million, although fees far in excess of that have been quoted for the France Under-21 international, who is on the sidelines until the end of August due to injury. 

There is true quality throughout Celtic's squad, though left-back Kieran Tierney is another standout. The local lad is a true Hoops fan and has established himself as one of the side's star performers, to such an extent that he has been linked with a move to some of England's top clubs. Whether they could lure him away from the side he loves is another story entirely.

Other names to look for in Brendan Rodgers' unit include creative midfielder Stuart Armstrong, Australia international Tom Rogic and Scotland striker Leigh Griffiths, whose two free kicks in the space of a few seconds at Hampden Park so nearly stunned England in June's Euro 2016 qualifier.

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Over the summer, Rangers have rejuvenated their squad, notably signing veteran Portugal international centre-back Bruno Alves. Alfredo Morelos has joined with a big goal-scoring reputation, but it is the arrival of former WBA star Graham Dorrans that could prove their best piece of business.

Rangers are also boosted by the return to fitness of Croatia international Niko Kranjcar, who spent much of last season out due to serious injury.

Elsewhere, Aberdeen have an exciting squad, with big things expected of Ryan Christie as he returns on loan from Celtic, while they have retained the services of SPFL Team of the Year members Joe Lewis and Shay Logan.

Partick Thistle centre-back Liam Lindsay was the only player to make the Team of the Season 2016-17 not from these three sides.


PREMIERSHIP ON TV


Tom Rogic Celtic v Aberdeen Scottish Premiership 08052016 In the UK, viewers can tune in to Scottish Premiership games live on television on BT Sport and Sky Sports, with the two chains' respective apps also showing matches.

UK TV channel UK online stream
BT Sport BT Sport app
Sky Sports Sky Go
 

PREMIERSHIP OPENING FIXTURES


Pedro Caixinha Rangers

Date Match Time TV?
Saturday Celtic vs Hearts 12:30 Yes
Saturday Dundee vs Ross County 15:00 No
Saturday Hibernian vs Partick Thistle 15:00 No
Saturday Kilmarnock vs St Johnstone 15:00 No
Sunday Motherwell vs Rangers 13:30 Yes
Sunday Aberdeen vs Hamilton Accies 15:00 No

*All times in BST.


HOW DID THE PREMIERSHIP FINISH IN 2016-17?


Niko Kranjcar Rangers

Scottish Premiership 2016-17 (top six):

Pos Team Pld W D L GF GA GD Pts
1 Celtic 38 34 4 0 106 25 +81 106
2 Aberdeen 38 24 4 10 74 35 +39 76
3 Rangers 38 19 10 9 56 44 +12 67
4 St Johnstone 38 17 7 14 50 46 +4 58
5 Hearts 38 12 10 16 55 52 +3 46
6 Partick Thistle 38 10 12 16 38 54 -16 42

Celtic won their sixth title in succession, doing so in incredible fashion in Brendan Rodgers' first season in charge as they went through the entire domestic campaign undefeated. The Parkhead side obliterated all of their nearest rivals, finishing an astonishing 30 points clear of second placed Aberdeen and 39 marks away from Old Firm rivals Rangers.


CAN ANYONE CHALLENGE CELTIC?


Aberdeen manager Derek McInnes

The short answer is no. Celtic's advantage over their rivals is too great to be seriously threatened, although both Aberdeen and Rangers will be disappointed if they do not make headway into the incredible gap that Rodgers' men amassed last season. 

Perhaps more than ever, the Hoops are a target to be shot at, and in particular there will be great pride taken to be the first side to defeat them in a domestic match since they went down 2-1 to St Johnstone on May 11, 2016. 

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Rangers have dramatically changed their squad since May, with manager Pedro Caixinha adding eight new faces to his ranks since the end of the campaign. He has used his knowledge of the Portuguese and Mexican market to add to his panel a group of players entirely unknown in Scotland. Although recent friendly results have been more promising, the 2-1 aggregate defeat to Progres Niederkorn in the Europa League does not bode well.

Aberdeen, who will challenge the Ibrox club for second, were buoyed when manager Derek McInnes rejected a move to Sunderland in favour of signing a new deal at Pittodrie. Clearly, he feels there is still life left in the squad, despite Caixinha claiming last season that his "cycle" is coming to an end.

There will, meanwhile, be a glut of clubs hoping for cup success, and it is here Rangers, Aberdeen and the rest should focus on their attention if they wish to win silverware.

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