It’s tight at the top of the Scottish Premier League with the Rangers finally looking like they might put in a realistic title challenge at long last. But for Celtic, this season is more than just another title, it’s their chance to claim that elusive tenth title in a row that no team in Scotland has ever achieved.
The last time either team came close was in 1997/98 when Rangers were on the cusp of their tenth title in a row. Celtic were mired in one of the worst periods in their history, but an obsessed squad put everything into stopping Rangers and did so with Win Jansen at the helm and legendary striker Henrik Larsson up front.
Can Rangers stop Celtic this time?
Rangers are enjoying a new lease of life under the guidance of Liverpool legend, Steven Gerrard. The transformation of the team has been nothing short of miraculous and, although they faded towards the end of last season, they are looking a lot more dangerous right now.
Two draws have spoiled an impeccable start to the season that saw them dispose of Dutch team Willem II 4-0 in the third qualifying round of the Europa League. It’s a credit to Gerrard that he has this Rangers team once again looking like a force to be reckoned with, reestablishing Ibrox as the fortress it once was.
Ryan Kent has hit a rich vein of form while the defence of Helander and Goldson is proving to be resolute. It’s strange that such an attack-minded player as Gerrard has taken a different approach as a manager. The Scouser believes that making his team hard to break down is the priority and so far this season, it has worked pretty well.
Yet despite the current run of form for their nearest rivals, SPL odds still have Celtic as the clear favourites to hit that ten in a row. The bookmakers and punters alike seem quite convinced that the Bhoys have what it takes to see off any challenge from Rangers. But why?
Have Celtic got what it takes?
In a word, yes. The squad proved last season that they have no intentions of taking their foot off the gas and it was something of a surprise when they limped out of the Champions League in the qualifying rounds. Lennon laid into the senior players and made no bones about the fact that he only wanted players at the club who wanted to be there.
While public outbursts like this have been known to fail in the past — it eventually got Jose Mourinho the sack at United — it worked wonders for Lennon. The squad responded with five wins from five scoring 14 goals and conceding only three.
Lennon simply showed the team what was at stake and they have responded brilliantly. For them, this is an opportunity to go down in history as the squad that achieved the first ten-in-a-row in Scotland. And realistically speaking, they may be the only squad that ever achieves the feat.
The key to their success will be the retention of their brightest talent and the integration of their new players into the squad. Despite all of the transfer gossip linking him with a move away, it seems that French starlet Odsonne Edouard will be at the club for the title attempt. The signing of Shane Duffy from Brighton also looks to have been an inspired move with the Irishman already slotting in comfortably at centre-half.
Lennon also finally got his wish and signed a new keeper in Vasilis Barkas, who joined the Bhoys from AEK Athens and has already made an impression on his teammates.
The truth is that the danger will not lie with the talents at Lennon’s disposal but a combination of Ranger’s form and the pressure of the title run-in. Last season, Gerrard’s team showed a distinct lack of steel on the home straight, but could it be different this season? Only time will tell.
One thing we are sure of though is that this season has the potential to be one of the most hotly contested SPL title run-ins in the history of the game. With Rangers trying to do what Celtic did to them in 1998, Gerrard’s men will have plenty of motivation to carry them through.