It would be hard to argue with the fact that Scottish football has lost its ability to make the headlines after the demise of Rangers and starting life again into the lower leagues. Celtic managed to wrap up yet another league title last season even with a relatively inexperienced manager in the form of Ronny Deila. The end of season form shown by Celtic was pleasing for Deila, but the real test for the Norwegian will come in the 2015-16 season. Betfair backs Celtic as virtual certainties in the Scottish Football odds at 1/50 for the league title next season.
Celtic failed to reach the Champions League group stages last season despite being given a second chance after the suspension of Legia Warsaw from last season’s tournament. It marked the start of a poor few months for the new manager, who did not get the grip on the job at least until November. It marked the first time that Celtic went top of the Scottish league after a narrow victory over Aberdeen. Since then, however, they have been able to maintain their position and in some convincing fashion.
The fast and attractive football has been extremely pleasing on the eye, but it has also brought the club trophies. The Scottish league title is no longer the benchmark due to the lack of major competition, but Deila managed to ensure that Celtic also won the Scottish League Cup. But it is still not enough because it will be the Champions League on which Deila will be judged upon.
The 39-year-old is still learning his job and he appears to have understood the importance of the European competition straightaway. Deila says that he is 500% confident of qualifying for the Champions League group stages next season. His predecessor, Neil Lennon, managed to reach even the knockout stages of the tournament a few years ago. Despite winning the league, Celtic have to go through several rounds of qualification before actually reaching the group stages.
Icelandic champions Stjarnan will be the first opponents standing between them and further rounds of qualification. Celtic should be relatively comfortable against Stjarnan, but much firmer tests await the club going forward. Another major disadvantage of having to take part in the qualification rounds is the disruption to their pre-season. The match against Stjarnan starts next month and the club will avoid extended foreign tours in order to preserve the energy of the players later in the season. As a result, most of the pre-season games will be in and around Scotland.
Celtic have made some important additions to the team like Dedryck Boyata from Manchester City. Boyata had been at the Etihad stadium for the last six years, but he rarely featured for the Manchester outfit. However, the 24-year-old possesses enough quality to quickly establish himself as one of the top defenders in Scotland. The new signing not only has to prove his own quality, but also showed that the manager has the eye for a good player. Deila is confident that the Belgian will be a success at Parkhead.
Just as adding new names is important, Celtic will also be keen on retaining the stars at the club. There have already been numerous transfer rumours surrounding names like James Forrest and Virgil van Dijk. The former has been linked with a reunion with former Celtic boss Neil Lennon at Bolton Wanderers, while van Dijk is the target of several Premier League clubs like Southampton. Deila appears to be relaxed with regard to van Dijk, as he has had enough conversations with the player to suggest that he wants to remain at Celtic for at least a season or more.
Deila has also questioned the reason behind a potential move for Forrest. A move to Bolton will be a step down – at least in the eyes of the Celtic boss – since the club are playing in the Championship and are struggling with a mountain of debt.
It may not be long before Celtic welcome back the Glasgow derby in the league. Rangers are the favourites to secure promotion from the Championship at odds of 4/6 from Betfair. Hibernian come second with odds of 9/4. Rangers failed at the final hurdle last season after losing in the play-off finals to Motherwell. They have signed former Celtic transfer target, Danny Wilson, amongst other players.