They failed to return to the ‘big time’ last season, which means Celtic are favourites once again for a domestic clean sweep of silverware this season.
Most football fans would like to see Rangers back in the top flight, contrary to the feelings of most Celtic fans. The Old Firm derby has always been the highlight of Scottish football, so the quicker they return to the Premiership, the better.
But while Rangers continue to struggle to get out of Scotland’s second tier, what do the Celtic faithful expect to see under Ronny Deila this season?
We asked the experts for their season predictions and stuck them all in one place for you to enjoy.
Here’s what Celtic fans expect from their club this season…
What the fans expect: Goals. Guts. Passion. And trophies. Last season, once the team started to motor, most of us thought the treble dream might be alive. But domestic trebles are incredibly tough to win, even in Scotland, and it takes an exceptional side, having an exceptional season, to actually scale that particular height. Whilst we dreamed about it, I don’t know that many Celtic fans actually expected to see us triumph and win it.
We came mighty close. The semi-final against Inverness, which ultimately ended the run, was one of those games we ought to have put out of sight before the wheels came off and things started to go wrong. We were also denied a stonewall penalty, in a travesty of a decision which haunted Scottish football for weeks and ought to have seen heads roll.
(I blogged extensively on the bizarre aftermath of that decision, and the ensuing mess the governing bodies got into in relation to it.)
Since then the team has really clicked under Ronny and the fans will be expecting us to go one better this year and seal the deal, making everyone involved part of something special.
In European terms the troops will be expecting qualification to the Group stages of the Champions League. It might be a big ask to go much further than that though.
What they’ll actually get: I’m going to be brazen and say that we’ll do the clean sweep in Scotland this year. The team is hungry for this, and with Gary Mackay Steven, Nadir Cifcti and Stuart Armstrong complimenting what was already a damned good side (GMS and Stuart were ineligible for the latter stages of the cup competitions last year and Nadir is a new signing) we’re in good shape domestically.
Europe is a tougher call. I think we’ll make the Groups but doing anything major in them is going to be a Herculian task. At best we can hope for a third place finish, giving us a Europa League berth, which in itself would be nice. Qualifying outright? Man oh man … if wishing made it so … I just don’t see it this time around. A year too early maybe, and we still lack that one qualify finisher who can take chances at that level and propel you onward.
One to Watch: Oh that’s easy. We have some extremely strong players in the midfield, guys who could go and play anywhere. (No joke, I really think they’re special.) Aside from our captain, Scott Brown, the others are really coming into their own. Nir Biton has blossomed into the kind of guy who was attracting Man City a few years ago, and he will be hugely important. Stefan Johansen is one of my favourite players at Celtic Park, a consummate passer of the ball, who gets forward but can do a defensive job as well. He is going to be a huge star.
But it’s Stuart Armstrong who excites me the most. He’s 23, he’s got a tremendous work ethic and he is classy. He can pass a ball, shoot from distance, he moves across the pitch almost effortlessly. His signing, late last year, was the one a lot of the bloggers had lobbied for on and off for a few years and we were delighted that the club made its move.
He is well worth keeping an eye on.
Predictions: A domestic treble, the Group stages of the Champions League … ending up in the Europa League quarter finals. That’ll be a success story beyond what most Celtic fans hope for … but I think it’s achievable, especially depending on what happens in January. If we get to the Groups and find a way to stay in Europe with the current squad there’s no excuse for not breaking out the cheque book.
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What the fans expect: Winning the treble and reaching the group stage of the Champions League
What they’ll actually get: Win the Premiership and Scottish Cup, reach group stage of Champions League
One to Watch: On loan Luke Donnelly
Predictions: Donnelly will be Championship Player of the Year
What the fans expect: Last season the club’s supporters had no great expectations; we were watching a team in transition and we knew that. As the season wore on we started to dream about a domestic treble though and that, I think, is what the supporters will be expecting this year.
We also failed to progress in the Champions League, suffering those two calamitous knockouts, one after being reinstated in the competition. The supporters expect progress on that front too, provided we get through tomorrow night in Azerbaijan.
What will they actually get?: Odd as it may seem, this season they actually stand a chance of hitting those targets. It’s no longer a team in transition for one, and the manager appears to have learned from the mistakes me made last season. In spite of all the changes at the club in the 2014-15 campaign, we actually did come exceedingly close to doing the clean sweep in Scotland; losing in the cup semi-final to Inverness prevented us going all the way.
Europe will be the tougher campaign, but even there I see signs of progress.
One to Watch: Easy one. Stuart Armstrong. A fantastic signing, with all the talent in the world. He compliments what was already a very strong Celtic midfield. I’m really excited about this guy and can’t wait to see him when he’s fully up to speed with the demands of the club.
Predictions: The treble will be wrapped up nicely. We’ll still be in Europe by Xmas… and we’ll still be waiting on the club spending more than £3 million on a player when this season is over. Forgive me for that cynicism, but I’ve been here too often before to doubt it.