Scottish football: Celtic set sights on fourth successive title
Last Updated: 17/08/14 11:49am
Celtic look good for a fourth successive title but it's the Championship which could hold most interest as the new season gets underway in Scotland this weekend.
The champions sit out the opening weekend due to Celtic Park's involvement in the Commonwealth Games but they return to 'Paradise' on August 16 where former owner Fergus McCann will unfurl the 2013-14 flag against Dundee United in front of the Sky Sports cameras.
Despite the Hoops' poor showings on the European front in the last 10 days, new boss Ronny Deila is confident he will be given the opportunity to strengthen his squad before the end of the transfer window.
And with Celtic guaranteed European football until Christmas, following their Champions League reprieve, the Norwegian will be keen to bolster his squad following the departures of Georgios Samaras and Tony Watt.
Aberdeen, Motherwell and St Johnstone have all already tumbled out of Europe in the qualifying rounds, but they remain well equipped to earn a shot at Continental teams again next season.
Derek McInnes has brought in five players to Pittodrie this summer, including David Goodwillie and Shaleum Logan, as the Aberdeen manager looks to build on last season’s performance to claim second spot.
Motherwell boss Stuart McCall has again had to reshape his squad with five departures and five arrivals, but he will be hopeful of finishing second for the third season in succession.
Dundee United have made big money from selling Ryan Gauld to Sporting Lisbon and Andrew Robertson to Hull City and boss Jackie McNamara has drafted in six players as the club look to challenge for a European spot next season.
Local rivals Dundee have been busy bringing in some experience as they hope to consolidate their place in the Scottish Premiership after a brief visit to the top-flight two seasons ago.
Partick, Kilmarnock, Ross County and St Mirren will looking to avoid last season’s brush with relegation, but appear likely for another nervy season again with new boys Dundee.
Despite coming up from the Championship through the playoffs, Hamilton appear better prepared for the challenge ahead, and will no doubt be delighted with a mid-table finish.
History will be made this season when Hibernian and Hearts will play the first Edinburgh derby in Scotland’s second tier.
Although the participation of both clubs in the Championship has been viewed as a boost for that division, both Hearts and Hibs endured long winless spells last season which ultimately cost them their place in the Premiership.
However, the Edinburgh duo will hope to make a swift return to the Scottish Premiership with bookies' favourites Rangers and Falkirk their main rivals.
The Ibrox team are seeking a third successive promotion, and are aiming to replicate Gretna’s run from the bottom league to the top division by finishing top of the pile for the third year in succession.
Rangers have continued to recruit players with top-flight experience as Kris Boyd, Kenny Miller, Darren McGregor and Marius Zaliukas have all come in, but further progress would appear to depend on off-the-pitch issues as the club continues to address financial issues.
Watch Rangers begin their bid for a third successive title at home to Hearts live on Sky Sports 1 from 1.00pm this Sunday.