In this one-off Cynic special, two of our writers will go head to head trying to predict various aspects of the upcoming season. I’m Stephen Russell (@SJRussell23) and competing we have Ronan Kearney (@Kearney1085) and Alex Papadopoulos (@AlexPapa67).
|8||St. Johnstone||St. Johnstone|
|12||St. Mirren||St. Mirren|
Both of our writers have Celtic and Rangers topping the table respectively with St. Mirren facing the drop. Motherwell are predicted to break into the top 6 in a good season for the young squad while Alex sees Aberdeen facing a bottom half finish. Below, we have the pair justifying some of their decisions.
Celtic will win the league with Rangers in second place, but I think it will be well into the fixtures split when the league is wrapped up and a Parkhead title decider may be on the cards. Whilst Rangers have signed a significant number of players, Celtic have got all of the experience and are well equipped to deal with fighting on both domestic and European fronts.
I have gone with St Mirren as my pick to go down. Their Betfred Cup campaign was a disaster and their lack of transfer activity is a huge concern for them. 13 players from last season’s squad are gone and they look like they are destined to go down.
I think Heckingbottom will do a good job at Hibs to bring them up to 4th this season and the loss of Steve Clarke will be keenly felt at Killie.
The top of the table goes to Celtic, of course. While Rangers have strengthened their (now very bloated) squad, there is a long time left in this transfer window and with a couple more signings in key areas Celtic will be a new team themselves. If we perform to the level that is to be expected, then there is no title race.
Hibs had a season where they performed under par, with the departure of Neil Lennon rocking the club midway through the season, meaning perhaps they will be hoping for a bounce back this season despite the loss of Stephane Omeonga and Marc McNulty.
Motherwell won 5 of their last 7 games at home. They will need consistency to be a dark horse candidate for the top 6 but I see it happening. Aberdeen on the other hand could well see their performances regress further yet, especially due to the unlikelihood of striker Sam Cosgrove giving them the same return as last season.
The bottom end of the table is far tougher to predict than the top. Livingston have lost several players over the summer who were integral to their style of play, as well as success in their first season back in the top division. I suspect that Hamilton, the perennial turd that will not flush, may well remain in the top flight.
In this section, we have our writers try to identify the most likely PFA Player of the Year and Young Player of the Year candidates.
|POTY||Ryan Christie||Ryan Christie|
|YPOTY||Joe Aribo||Mikey Johnston|
Christie: The trajectory that Christie has been on has been great to watch. He has actually been really unlucky with some injuries last season but, on each occasion, he returns stronger than before. Playing in front of Brown and McGregor this season, he has the potential to chip in with 10-15 goals – he runs all day and gets beyond the striker. He has the tools to make an impact not just for Celtic but also for Scotland this season.
Aribo: Operation ‘Stop the 10’ needs to bear some fruit doesn’t it?
Christie: One of the more enjoyable performers from last year, Celtic played their best football throughout the season whenever he was on the pitch. At 24 he will only improve, so long as he is lucky with injury and fitness. Christie could well be a potential Celtic hero if he sticks with the club, and after a breakthrough half-season last year, he can let his true colours show this time around.
Johnston: What can I say that you can’t see with your eyes? The wee man is a wonderful, inventive player and for me has justified himself as a first-choice pick on the left-hand side. Put your house on it, this is his year and we will be blessed to watch him.
Where will Celtic’s European adventure end?
Neil Lennon is the most recent Celtic manager to have much, if any, European success. I am of course referring to the 2012/13 UEFA Champions League campaign in which Celtic’s stubborn defence saw off a peak Barcelona side and reached the knockout stage of the tournament. Here, we will have our writers discuss whether Lennon can replicate his successes this time around or if the prospect of a 9th consecutive title will prove too much of a distraction.
Champions League Group Stages – I have said since before the draw for Round 1 of the qualifiers that we would get into the group stages of the big cup and I am not turning back now. The draw has been kind(ish) so far and Lennon has navigated these waters before in his first spell as manager. I think our performances when we get there though will be a different story, however. A 4th placed finish in the group stages meaning no European football after Christmas is what I see laying ahead.
This one has two different answers.
In a recurring dream, that I get anytime I drink whisky, Celtic reach the last 16 of the CL thanks to an injury time overhead-kick winner by French Eddy against Inter at the San Siro, before gracefully bowing out on away goals to Atlético.
However, the reality is likely quite different.
Of course, there are areas in which Celtic will need to strengthen in order to progress past our next two opponents, but I am quietly confident that we will make the CL group stages. There are few teams left in the draw who we should not expect to beat if the team put in the performances that they are capable of. Coupled with Don Corle-Lawwell dipping his hand into his pocket a few more times, the lucrative Elysium fields of the Champions League could well be on the cards again following last years’ brief intermission.
‘Hot take’ of the season
The internet, and specifically Twitter, is filled with hot takes that are often wide of the mark. It’s not easy to take a standpoint that isn’t the general view of the public – but that is exactly what we have asked Ronan and Alex to do.
This will be Gerrard’s last season at Rangers.
He will be under serious pressure to stop Celtic winning 9 in a row. If that doesn’t happen then he will be asked questions that he doesn’t appear to have the answers for. He will end up at some bottom half Premier League club somehow and Rangers will be playing Murty-Ball again next season.
The departure of the previous manager was ultimately a good thing in the longer-term future of the club.
The shock of a midseason managerial loss has the potential to have saved the team from stagnation. The playing squad of the past 3 years has been mostly that which has been assembled by Ronny Deila and is starting to reach the end of its lifetime as a unit.
Had Rodgers hung around, it seems likely that this summer window would have played out much like last year: the promise of backing followed by no substance. So far this summer, however, there has been progress in some of the weaker areas of the team. With the addition of another right-sided fullback and perhaps a midfielder, this could be a very promising window that can allow Celtic to kick on for the future.
An exciting year lies ahead for Celtic with Ryan Christie destined to be a distinct attacking threat with McGregor pulling the strings behind him. This could well be Mikey Johnstone’s breakthrough season and Champions League football is still very much on the table for Neil Lennon’s side.
Gerrard’s Rangers look to be going hell for leather to try and stop Celtic sipping from the Holy Grail that is 10 in a row but, ultimately, the pressure could prove too much, causing a trophy-less side to remain so.
Whatever happens, it’s gearing up to be one of the most exciting league campaigns in recent history and I can’t wait to check back on these predictions in May when we are hopefully one step closer to the promised land.
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