ANOTHER Scottish top-flight season begins with Celtic long odds on. Chris Graham (@chrisgraham79) goes in search of alternative value.
Scottish Premiership | Outright Winner | 1st August 2015
Well, here we are again. Another Premiership season is about to kick off with Celtic 1/33 to win a fifth consecutive Scottish title. Dull? Not a bit of it!
Last season’s title race (and it was a race) went on for longer than most people expected. Three sides were in the mix on Christmas Day but after Dundee United collapsed in the New Year it was up to Aberdeen to match Celtic. The Dons lasted until March when they were beaten 4-0 at Celtic Park and the fact they accrued the most points by a non-Old Firm side for over 20 years spoke volumes for their season.
Derek McInnes’ side are 20/1 to overthrow Celtic this season. While that’s unlikely you’d be hard pressed to say they have a slimmer chance than last season. The Dons look to have purchased well with the versatile Graeme Shinnie coming in from Scottish Cup winners Inverness and Paul Quinn from Ross County.
Perhaps it’s foolish to read too much into European results before domestic campaigns begin, but there’s no doubt Aberdeen’s Europa League win over Rijeka was a hugely impressive one. The Croat side performed well in the group stages of the competition last year beating Feyenoord and Standard Liege at home and drawing with winners Sevilla.
For me there are three concerns over Aberdeen. One is a general one where non-Old Firm sides struggle to maintain a strong challenge over more than one season. We’ve seen the great Hearts sides of 1997-98 and 2005-06 struggle the following seasons, although Aberdeen look even stronger this year to be fair.
Secondly, will they stay the trip? They run out of gas towards the end of last season, so do they have the nous and personnel to remain consistent throughout the campaign?
Thirdly, this is Ronny Delia’s second season at the helm of Celtic. Like Louis Van Gaal at Manchester United I expect him to be much better equipped this time round. The only plus for Aberdeen would be if Celtic reach the Champions League group stages and take their eye off the ball domestically.
Celtic won the title by 17 points last season, but that massively flattered them. As mentioned above Aberdeen hit the wall in the home straight while the Bhoys seemed to get stronger as the season grew older. Their summer turnover has hardly caught the imagination, Dedryck Boyata looks a like-for-like replacement for Jason Denayer, Nadir Ciftci has questions to answer while the loss of Adam Matthews looks a sore one.
Next in the betting is Hearts at 66/1. The Edinburgh club had a season their fans will never ever forget in 2014/15 when they won the Scottish Championship by a well deserved 21 points from rivals Hibs and hapless Rangers.
How will they fare here though? Robbie Neilson has brought in Gavin Reily from Queen Of The South and some other lesser known names, but the Gorgie outfit look best placed to fill the bronze medal slot in my opinion.
Inverness and Dundee United are next on the list but I like neither. Both sides seem to be regressing and I doubt the heights they reached in 2014/15 will be replicated here.
Moving away from Outright Winner and onto the Handicap market, the likes of St Johnstone, Dundee and Ross County caught my eye here but I have to say I was surprised to see Aberdeen receiving as many as 21 points from Celtic. The gap was 17 last season but the Dons look to have improved and will have learned so much from their experiences.
If they avoid the Europa League group stages and Celtic find themselves in the Champions League groups (or Europa League of course) then this is achievable. Remember the gap was single figures right up till the final few days of the campaign with the Dons taking just one point from their final possible 12.
I also have to put my balls on the line here and suggest Aberdeen shouldn’t be as big as 20/1 to win the title. Should they? They pushed Celtic all the way to March last season losing just one league game in 22 between November and May. Instead of losing four out of four against the Glasgow club just imagine they’d won two of those fixtures? The gap would have been down to five and that’s factoring in the May collapse.
Liverpool are around the same price to win the English Premier League, I know which one I’d rather back. McInnes was adamant his side will push Celtic even harder this season and I’m inclined to agree. Purely as a trading opportunity it wouldn’t be ridiculous to back the Dons to win the league. Celtic struggled in the first half of last season due to European commitments and Deila finding his range and if the same happens again expect the North East club to be top when the clocks go back.
Scottish Premiership – Aberdeen +21 (8/1 Ladbrokes)
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