By Brian P. Dunleavy
The 2017-18 Scottish Premiership season begins in earnest this weekend, although several of the top sides from last term have already been active—if unsteady—in European competition.
So where will the 12 top-flight teams end up in the table when all is said and done? Here are our predictions for the coming season:
Sure some Hoops supporters are concerned that manager Brendan Rodgers hasn’t done enough to freshen last season’s “invincible,” treble-winning side. And that may be true. But Celtic are still far and away the best team in Scotland, and while European business (which may yet entail the Champions’ League, following Wednesday’s victory in Norway) may be a distraction from domestic affairs at the start of the season, they’ll win the league in a canter. Still, while they may repeat the treble, they’ll lose a match or two this time around.
Hibs manager Neil Lennon last season said his side were second-best in Scotland—while they were still in the Championship. Now, he’ll get a chance to prove it. Lennon has had success in Scotland as both a player and manager, of course, and he’s built a solid side for the return to the top flight. They just may be second best—if only by default.
The Ibrox side will be better this season, but we still see them finishing third. Why? We’re still not sure manager Pedro Caixinha is up to the task. Yes, he’s made some astute signings, including Bruno Alves, with more reportedly on the way. But the loss in Luxembourg during Europa League qualifying gives us—and the club’s supporters—pause.
The Dons have been Scotland’s second best for some time now, but their run finishing just behind Celtic comes to an end in 2017-18. The squad has seen too many departures—Niall McGinn and Jonny Hayes, for starters—and not enough arrivals… at least not yet. Manager Derek McInnes has worked wonders in the northeast, but he’ll struggle to replicate recent finishes.
5. St. Johnstone
Saints boss Tommy Wright has always done more with less, but the return of Hibs to the top flight will likely knock his side out of a European place. Still, we see them breathing down Aberdeen’s neck for that fourth spot, and only wish more Perth supporters would pack McDermaid Park to witness it.
6. Partick Thistle
With a new training complex under construction, the Jags may soon be the Corinthians of Glasgow. They will be competitive again this term, but a top-six finish is, for them, the high-water mark.
The Steelmen will be better this year. No team in Scotland has seen more squad turnover. But will it be enough to finish in the top half of the table? We don’t think so.
The purple (or whatever) side of Edinburgh has arguably never been in better shape off the pitch, but on the pitch is a different story. The board didn’t make the right hire with Ian Cathro, and they better make the right one with his replacement—or it could be a battle just to stay in the top flight for the Jambos.
Killie could finish as high as sixth, or as low as 11th. As much as it pains us to admit it, we know that manager Lee McCulloch is the right man for the job, but does the club have the resources it needs to remain a solid Premiership side? We’ll see…
Lots of changes at Dens Park, but the season will still be a struggle. They’ll avoid relegation, which is a win for a club this size.
11. Hamilton Accies
Accies avoided relegation last season… barely. They’ll finish in the play-offs again, and this time they won’t survive.
12. Ross County
The Staggies will have the Highlands Derby on their schedule again in 2018-19—but it will be in the Championship, Liam Boyce or no.