Course and distance Celtic unlikely to let their crown slip

The Scottish Premiership is heading for it’s most exciting conclusion since the days of the now defunct Old Firm, ie BRD*…

It was a storied rivalry as historic as the sport itself, the Old Firm Derby between Celtic and their old rivals Rangers FC. The Ibrox club went bust in 2012 and in 2015 Celtic faced for the first time ever the phoenix club founded by Charles Green in a League Cup semi-final.  That’s now correctly known as the Glasgow Derby and it’s fair to say that outside of one title win for the new Rangers, and that was during that freakish covid season when the games were played in empty stadiums, Celtic have dominated the fixture and also the distribution of honours.

Since 2012 Celtic have won every single Scottish Premiership title other than that Covid season (2020/21) and the Parkhead club, with it’s proud unbroken history, has the experience of winning titles to fall back on as we enter the final stretch in this campaign, with theRangers currently enjoying a two points lead over the current Scottish Champions.

While head-to-head meetings always provide the on-pitch entertainment we desire, lob-sided Scottish Premier League title races over the last decade in favour of Celtic have somewhat dimmed the ongoing feud. Put simply Celtic’s successes have given the impression to outsiders that their triumphs over a consistently inferior latest Ibrox club is now just too predictable.

So from their point of view its a refreshing change to have a neck and neck finish this season. It’s clear that theRangers v Celtic competitiveness has been reignited during the 2023/24 season, and finally, The Bhoys have a challenge regarding the contention for their Scottish Premiership crown. It’s a challenge that everyone at Celtic will relish and no-one more so than the Celtic manager Brendan Rodgers.

He knows that theRangers are currently leading the Premiership standings in a season which has been full of ups and downs. And as Celtic diehards, all we can say is: ‘What took you so long?’ We’ve been waiting so long for theRangers coming along to give us a title challenge and now here we are and may the best team win. Well we just have to look at the results in the Glasgow Derby matches this season to get an appreciation of which side we reckon is Scotland’s best. Celtic have won both of these matches against theRangers with the two having to play  twice again, first at Ibrox in April, and maybe a decider in May.

Aside from a lack of competition and complete domination of this league in 11 of the last 12 seasons, how did we allow theRangers to overtake us in the standings exactly?

theRangers journey back into title contention

Celtic drew 1-1 with Kilmarnock in mid-February. Philippe Clement’s team then defeated St Johnstone the next day, allowing them to surpass their opponents for the first time this season, indeed for the first time since Ange Postecoglou led Celtic to a 3-0 win over theRangers in February 2022 and didn’t lose the top spot until that win for theRangers up in Perth. As things stand  theRangers now lead Celtic by two points with 10 games remaining (two of which are against Celtic).

Not many anticipated a tightly contested championship battle when Clement took over from Michael Beale at theRangers in mid-October. He took over a team lacking confidence, one that was performing poorly in European competitions and was considered by many, including their own support,  to be no longer in contention for the crown. Things got particularly ugly at Ibrox when Aberdeen won 3-1, that was almost as bad as Celtic winning their earlier in the campaign.

Celtic owned a 10-point lead at one point in the season but theRangers always had a couple of games in hand. But theRangers reduced the margin to just five points with a 16-game (11 SPL) undefeated streak under the Belgian manager between October 8th and Christmas Eve.

After losing 2-1 to Celtic in the Glasgow Derby clash  just before the ew year, said streak was put to bed as Rodgers’ and co. took an eight-point lead into 2024, again it must be noted that theRangers still had two games in hand.

However, as Celtic dropped points against Aberdeen, theRangers were able to win both of their games in hand after the winter break, bringing them level with Celtic at the top of the league.

With their win against St. Johnstone, theRangers took over first place in a championship battle expected to go right until the final few match days this term as the Hoops once again failed to collect maximum points, this time against Kilmarnock.

Last Saturday Hearts were hammered 5-0 at Ibrox and incredibly that gave theRangers a FIVE points lead in the title before Celtic played a difficult away match at Motherwell. The home side were 1-0 up at the break, much to the delight of theRangers supporters, But Celtic through two goals from Adam Idah and one from Luis Palma roared back to take all three points.

Then in midweek theRangers were losing 1-0 at Kilmarnock while Celtic were 6-0 in front at the interval against Dundee. But theRangers turned it round after the break to win 2-1 while Celtic ran out 7-1 winners.

So who will win the league this season? Well, this question seemed easy to predict right up until Celtic lost back-to-back league games for the first time in over a decade in mid December.  Celtic was the correct answer until then, but today, it’s providing a mixed bag of answers depending on who you ask.

Everything is on the line now as theRangers have taken a two-point lead for the first time this season. Still, before the season concludes, each team has ten league games left to play, two of which will be Glasgow Derby matches at Ibrox then Celtic Park – and these games could decide which ends up as the Scottish titleholders of 2024.

When evaluating the top-ranked betting sites UK, theRangers have slipped into a favourable position. However, sportsbooks are known for their top-of-the-table bias, and if Celtic were to reclaim the top spot next week, the current odds would flip.

Scottish Premiership Winner Odds:

Rangers 11/8

Celtic 13/8

Hearts 4500/1

With the extra burden of European football, theRangers might not have much time to enjoy their high placement at the summit, and there’s no need to start rejoicing so early in the domestic season, especially considering how much remains to be played.

The bookies, however, now see theRangers as odds-on favourites to bring the Scottish Premiership trophy back to Ibrox at the conclusion of the season, even though the Scottish championship race remains completely open. This presents Celtic supporters with a very rare opportunity to get odds like 13/8 on the team to win the league.

Despite being heavy favourites throughout the season, Celtic are currently 13/8 odds to win the title, for the Celtic supporters who like a flutter and watch Celtic in sensational form in midweek, that might be just too tempting to resist.

Don’t Underestimate The Hoops

Ignore Celtic at your peril. This club has repeatedly shown that it can handle rough patches and still produce success, even when the fans are disgruntled and sometimes irate.

Celtic have won the league 11 times in the previous 12 seasons, while theRangers have won only once (in 2020/21), as they prevented The Hoops from capturing a 10th straight championship.

Sure, the current lead at the top of the table may have vanished, but many of these players know what winning a title takes, including Rodgers himself – His first season resulted in consecutive league championships and an unconquerable treble.

There may have been some tight races for Scotland’s top slot based on league tables from prior years. But the reality is, you have to go back to 2010–11 for the last meaningful title race when the old, now defunct Rangers were declared winners on the last day of the season, a forever tarnished title given their unlawful tax scheme and a squad full of improperly registered players.

In this scenario, the experience element favours one manager over the other, and winning the league requires a certain mindset, theRangers’ recent results has put them back in the hunt, but the experience of Rodgers and his team is undeniable.  

*Before Rangers Died.

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