Before becoming a Sports Journalist for Free Super Tips, Aaron spent three years studying Sports Journalism at the University of Sunderland while taking in the Black Cats' 'glory years' under Martin O'Neill. Now back in Northern Ireland he turns niche stats into predictions for FST, while he's one of the few people on this island who is equally comfortable at Windsor Park and the Aviva.
The new Scottish Premiership season has a master vs apprentice feeling, as Steven Gerrard starts his managerial career. The former Liverpool captain clashes with his former Anfield boss, as he prepares to meet Celtic boss Brendan Rodgers in the battle for the Scottish title. Will the arrival of the former England captain be enough to topple the Bhoys, or will he end up as the Ibrox equivalent to John Barnes?
Ahead of the 2018/19 campaign in the Scottish Premiership, we’re looking through all of the betting markets to find the best value. While the Old Firm battle at the top, there are two new boys aiming to beat the drop this season, while there’s going to be a battle for the European spots too.
Scottish Premiership Winner Prediction – Celtic
After seven straight titles, Celtic are the clear dominant force at the top of Scottish football. They’re aiming for an eighth straight success, while their ultimate goal seems to be 10 in a row, beating the previous record of nine straight title wins. Brendan Rodgers has committed to staying to take them to that goal. However, this is arguably the biggest challenge that they’ve faced under Rodgers, but can they come through it?
The Bhoys have been priced up as huge favourites to lift the title and based on recent years that seems fair. Everyone expected a comeback from the Gers, but they’re still in transition as they look to get back to the level they were at before being demoted down to the fourth tier. Celtic finished the season nine points clear, but they had the title wrapped up by March in effect. It’s going to take something huge to cut that gap, and we don’t see that happening this year.
While the Bhoys have sold off Stuart Armstrong and Erik Sviatchenko, they’ve invested in forward Odsonne Edouard. They’ve still got money to spend, and they continue to possess the best squad in the division. We can’t see past another title win for Celtic, once again the big issue in the Scottish Premiership is who will finish second.
Winner Without Celtic – Rangers
Recent years has seen Aberdeen muscle in as the challengers to Celtic. Even in their last two seasons in the top flight, the Gers have been third behind the Dons. They’re desperate to turn that around, and the appointment of Steven Gerrard has been seen as an attempt to raise their profile. It has certainly helped the Gers in the transfer market, and they’ve moved for the likes of Scott Arfield, Allan McGregor and Jon Flanagan.
Gerrard has been able to bring in Ryan Kent and Ovie Ejaria on loan from Liverpool, two of four loan deals the club have done so far. With an active presence in the transfer market, the Gers have improved their squad, something which should worry Aberdeen, as they try to hold on to a spot in the top two.
However, the Dons have been weakened since narrowly making it in to second last season. They’ve lost a few important players, despite only making a few new signings so far. They have lost the services of Ryan Christie, who returns to Celtic after 34 appearances for the Dons last season. Nicky Maynard and Anthony O’Connor have both departed, while Conference side Salford swooped for Adam Rooney. They blew Aberdeen away financially to prize away their key forward, and that could give Rangers an opening.
While Aberdeen have become Celtic’s closest challengers in recent years, Rangers have been closing in. This finally seems like the season when the Gers will get things right, they surely can’t miss out again after a busy transfer window. While Gerrard isn’t likely to land the title, we do see him taking them above Aberdeen this term.
Top Scorer Prediction – Alfredo Morelos
One thing going in Rangers’ favour this season is that they have a forward up front who is capable of consistently scoring goals. Alfredo Morelos finished the campaign as the runner-up in the race for the golden boot. He was ultimately beaten by a former Ibrox man, as Kris Boyd hit form late in the campaign to finish as top scorer.
Morelos should be even better this term, while it’s hard to see the 34-year-old Boyd repeating that over the season. The Colombian did slow down towards the end of the season after a bright start, scoring just once from March until the end of the campaign. However, that came after he played consistently for HJK from January 2017 until he joined the Gers, and then he played a full season in Scotland. That’s bound to burn him out.
Morelos returns from a summer break, and he’s been made the first choice by Gerrard. He finished his spell in HJK with 11 goals in as many starts, and then he followed that with a one in two record in the Premiership last term. With Celtic set to share minutes and goals between Edouard, Moussa Dembele and Leigh Griffiths, Morelos is our top scorer pick.
To Finish Bottom – St Mirren
Both St Mirren and Livingston managed to secure promotion last term, with Livi winning the play-offs. While the bottom of the Premiership has a few poor sides like Dundee and Hamilton floating around, we can’t see any of the established teams finishing below the newcomers.
Of course, only one side will go straight down, so we should get an interesting battle at the bottom. We’re likely to see a close run affair here, but we can see St Mirren being the side to drop out of the top flight. Alan Stubbs hasn’t got the greatest track record behind him as a boss, and given that Jack Ross turned this squad around before heading for Sunderland, we think they’ll really struggle without him.
With a few unconvincing early displays, we think St Mirren will finish up bottom of the pile, and despite being second favourites, they’re still good value for the drop.
Top Six Finish – Motherwell
Last season was a huge success for Motherwell and Steve Robinson, as they reached two cup finals. Despite two defeats to Celtic at Hampden Park, they had a strong season overall. They finished seventh in the top flight, and the Fir Park side weren’t too far off the top half. After a solid start in the League Cup, they’ll be out for another successful campaign.
After the summer transfer business, Motherwell still seem the best placed side to move from the bottom half in to the top six. They should get more from Conor Sammon than Hearts managed, while defender Liam Donnelly is also expected to make an impact at Fir Park. With question marks over Hearts and Kilmarnock, we think Motherwell are value for a top six finish this term.
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