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Stephen Craigan: Why the Scottish premiership title is already Celtic's to lose

Leading way: Celtic captain Scott Brown
Leading way: Celtic captain Scott Brown
Gers hitman Alfredo Morelos
Neil Lennon
Ibrox boss Steven Gerrard
Stephen Craigan

By Stephen Craigan

Celtic or Rangers for the title then? The Scottish Premiership may still be in its infancy with only five league games played so far, but already there is a sense among fans that the race between the Glasgow giants will go down to the wire.

Before a ball was kicked, it was the most anticipated battle between the big two since Rangers were demoted to the fourth tier in 2012. A few weeks in, it remains that way.

With Neil Lennon and Steven Gerrard at the helm for their respective clubs, there's always going to be plenty of spark on and off the pitch.

After their 2-0 win at Ibrox earlier this month, Lennon's Celtic are in the driving seat though in my view that was the case even prior to the derby. Celtic's players have the experience of winning titles and Lennon's squad is full of serial winners. They've won the last NINE domestic trophies for heaven's sake!

Lennon himself has also been there and done it as a manager so he knows what it takes. Big statement this early I know, but it's Celtic's title to lose for me.

The Celtic boss will rely heavily on his enforcer and captain Scott Brown to lead the way and set the example. His recent performance in Celtic's win at Rangers showed he has still got plenty to offer. With Callum McGregor and James Forrest consistently turning up on the big occasions and delivering when it really matters, you can understand why Lennon was so upset that people wrote his team off ahead of that crucial win at Ibrox.

Odsonne Edouard, a £9m signing two years ago, is starting to fulfil his potential and chipping in with vital goals. He's growing into his role as the club's No.9 and is now taking on the responsibility as Lennon's go-to man.

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As for Gerrard, over the summer he added to his squad as he attempts to break Celtic's stranglehold on domestic football in Scotland. He is well aware he has to back up his board's support by delivering major silverware.

Gerrard will turn to experienced Northern Ireland captain Steven Davis as he attempts to kick-start his Ibrox revolution.

Steven is his elder statesman and a player who will be entrusted to help players round about him. The £7m acquisition of Ryan Kent on deadline day was seen by many as a panic buy which Gerrard strenuously denied, but either way once he's fully fit he must produce the goods and show why they paid such a fee.

Alfredo Morelos, last season's top scorer, must get the goals again - and stay on the pitch.

Both managers will have huge parts to play in the coming weeks and months as their sides have such a busy schedule with Premiership, League Cup and Europa League fixtures to contend with.

Both got off to impressive starts in their Europa League campaigns with Celtic getting a very good point away at the much-fancied Rennes and Rangers beating Feyenoord to get off and running in their group.

However, rotation and keeping players fresh will be an important component for Lennon and Gerrard to consider in this congested period.

Neither side will want to give any encouragement to their rivals in what will be a war of attrition. The question is, will it be the experience of Lennon who comes out on top or will Gerrard deliver on his promise to make Rangers successful again?

Like I said, it's Celtic's to lose!

• On a sad note, I'd like to pay tribute to former Rangers captain Fernando Ricksen, who passed away this week after a long battle with MND. He was a true warrior on and off the pitch. RIP Fernando.

Belfast Telegraph


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