Celtic won’t be dethroned but the Scottish Premiership gap is thinner
Scotland’s top division has a new name, the Scottish Premiership, yet odds of 1/40 reflect that it will almost certainly have the same champions as the past two seasons and eight of the previous 13 in Celtic.
But while Rangers’ demise has made winning the title easier than ever for the Bhoys, the early indication is that the lack of an equal will enable the rest of the pack to edge closer to them than in the last Old Firm-bossed 17 years.
Though they finished 16 points clear of Motherwell last term, they did so with their lowest points tally in 13 years – having outdone the Steelman by 31 points in 2011/12 – and as statistically the least convincing champions of the 38-game era.
It is natural for complacency to creep in, however unknowingly, with top spot effectively guaranteed, and the danger is heightened when there’s the far more captivating and challenging Champions League to focus on.
They have made solid progress in this campaign’s preliminaries, so another group stage venture beckons. With the class of 2013/14 slightly weaker than before due to Victor Wanyama and Gary Hooper’s exits, don’t be stunned if their latest title triumph is by 10 points or fewer.
Motherwell are deserving of their 12/5 favouritism in the winner without Celtic market having been the best besides the Old Firm in the past two years.
They have lost the likes of chief goal threat Michael Higdon and goalkeeper Darren Randolph but crucially retained manager Stuart McCall despite interest from Sheffield United and have bought well in Stephen McManus and former star John Sutton.
The rest of the 2012/13 top half have suffered losses this summer too. St Johnstone (11/1) boss Steve Lomas joined Millwall, Inverness CT (10/1) had Andrew Shinnie nabbed by Birmingham, Ross County (12/1) saw two players depart for Motherwell and Dundee United (6/1) were also raided.
There is a lot of expectation surrounding Aberdeen at 5/2 after some eye-catching business, though manager Derek McInnes has much to prove and the club have endured too many recent false dawns to inspire great confidence.
At the other end, things are bleak for one-time best of the rest Hearts, who are 2/5 to finish bottom on account of a 15-point deduction and financial problems that have seen their squad savaged.
All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing.