With the Scottish Premiership 2020/21 season well and truly underway, now feels like the perfect time to review the events of the season so far. Whilst also looking ahead to see what the rest of the season has in store in what is arguably the biggest season in Scottish football history!
The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic brought last season to an abrupt halt, with this, many knew that football, in Scotland’s top flight, would be an ongoing struggle and a far cry from what we have grown accustomed to over the years. With no fans present at games the footballing world has been turned upside down making empty stands and virtual season tickets the norm which no one had wished for. The controversy our game has gone through, in the months following its sudden end, has been pushed to the back of the minds of supporters as football has resumed. Although the forced exclusion of fans from stadia around Scotland has somewhat taken away from what sets our game apart from the rest. The passion normally felt emitting from the terraces has been replaced with a sombre atmosphere, cardboard cut outs and supporter’s flags sprawled across seats. Although a huge loss for the game, it has been far from uneventful since the Premiership kicked off at the beginning of August.
From scandals involving players breaching strict COVID guidelines, to surprising starts to the season from some clubs, this season has not gone without talking points so far. The strongest talking point of this pandemic-stricken season came on Saturday with the first Old Firm fixture of the campaign. It was evident this was a vital affair and possibly the biggest so far in Scottish football history, as we discussed many points explaining this theory on our Youtube Podcast. Underdogs, Rangers cruised to a 2-0 victory and consequently plagued the Celtic faithful with a major scare, in biggest season in the history of the club. The importance of this season cannot be emphasised enough with Celtic chasing a record breaking 10 titles in a row and Rangers setting out to stop history being created.
Considering all of the main factors, such as; spending, form, previous placements and squad depth BSR Sports have put together a detailed and analytic prediction for the 2020/21 season starting with 12th position:
12th Place Relegated
Hamilton have managed to evade the drop despite a series of poor seasons over the last few seasons. To credit Hamilton they always seem to get results when it is needed most. The early finish to last season perhaps was a favour for Accies and with an inexperienced squad leaking an average of three goals per game this year is the year they will make the anticipated drop. With a poor start to the season being kicked off with a heavy 5-1 defeat to Celtic, losing to Ross County, St.Mirren and conceding 5 to St Johnstone at home on Saturday, the early warning signs are evident for Brian Rice’s side.
11th Place Play-off Relegation
Ross county struggled in their Premiership return season last year finishing 10th place in a tightly contested relegation battle. This season seems to suggest no different for the Dingwall side despite sitting 8th in the table they remain only four points from slipping into the dreaded bottom two places. Despite keeping a hold of Ross Stewart in the transfer window, and the January acquisition of Oli Shaw from Hibs, BSR Sports feel they may be capable of maintaining their Premiership status, although it will be hard fought.
The Paisley Saints have set their sights on a top half finish which seems overly ambitious; even more so now after a disappointing start to the season, sitting in 11th spot. With acquisitions like the experienced Richard Tait, we predict they will be able to register an improved finish on last season’s relegation fight and achieve a more comfortable ending to the season in Scotland’s Top flight.
Livingston are off the back of a top half finish last season, with a determined squad of players who know how to play to their strengths at home on their plastic surface. Livingston at home are a formidable force and last season recorded a win and a draw against champions Celtic at the Tony Macaroni Arena. They have suggested that this may carry on into this season after holding Rangers to a 0-0 draw on matchday 4 and I believe they can stay up this year by playing their own brand of football that has worked well for them the past two seasons. However, we predict a top half finish may be out of reach for them this year, due to the quality of the other teams challenging for a coveted top six spot.
Motherwell after finishing in 3rd place last year had earned the plaudits of fans and pundits up and down the country with Stephen Robinson leading the Steelmen to their highest league finish in six years. Although this season the Lanarkshire outfit struggled to get out the starting blocks with their first win not being registered until game week seven against a struggling St.Johnstone. The loss of David Turnbull although a huge blow, will not have too much influence on their league standings as he was out of action all of last season.
After their biggest win in 50 years, St.Johnstone seem to be on the up from a poor start to the season, after putting 7 past Brechin City in the Betfred Cup on Wednesday and 5 past Hamilton on Saturday . The departure of Tommy Wright, who steered them to their Scottish Cup triumph in 2014 and several top 4 finishes over the years, has been a massive loss to the club. Whether they can find some form and claw their way up from the threat of relegation is yet to be seen. However, the acquisition of ex Scotland international, Craig Conway, linking up with an on fire Stevie May could be the difference between the Saints and other clubs this year as their squad is rich in experience.
Dundee United have returned to the Premiership after a long awaited four-season absence, with a squad of whom cruised to a comfortable promotion, from the Championship, and has remained largely intact. With star man, Lawrence Shankland, looking to carry over his form into the Premiership, after scoring 30 goals for United last season. He has only managed two goals in five appearances so far this season. Although, he has been hampered by injury, if he can stay fit, we believe he can be the man to fire Dundee United to a comfortable finish and into the top six.
Kilmarnock are now into their second season after Steve Clarke’s departure and have started off to a respectable start under Alex Dyer, cruising in 5th place. They have managed to achieve some great results, including a 1-1 draw at home to Celtic and a 4-0 rout of Dundee United. Despite these well-earned points, they still remain within a few bad results away from slipping towards the bottom of the table. They must continue to push on after Saturdays 3-1 win at Livingston, to try and achieve a higher finish than last season’s 8th place.
After a lacklustre season last year, Hibs have started this year’s campaign looking rejuvenated under Jack Ross, with a series of smart additions to the squad. The acquisition of Kevin Nisbet has been a stand out, as he continues his prolific goal scoring form in the Premiership, finding the net six times in eight appearances. Hibs look to push on from a forgettable 6th place finish and challenge for a Europa League spot whilst establishing themselves as one of the best outfits in the country. A successful season looks to be in the offing for Hibs if their star players such as Nisbet and Martin Boyle are able to keep up their excellent start to the season.
3rd Place Europa League
Last season’s 4th place finishers Aberdeen have had a relatively successful start to the season, managing to float in a comfortable 4th in the table; with two games in hand over 3rd place, Hibernian, with to the postponement of games due to COVID outbreaks. Although much has been said about the player’s off the park antics, they have responded professionally and managed to accumulate some well-deserved results. Despite poor performances against Rangers on the opening day and a shock 3-0 loss to Motherwell at Pittodrie, they continue to challenge for the 3rd place spot that the fans expect of them every season.
2nd Place Europa League
Rangers have had a couple blips this season with poor performances coming against Livingston and Hibs. With a positive summer window adding quality and depth, many fancy their chances this season as they have played exciting, attacking football for the most part. Being able to keep a hold of star men Alfredo Morelos and Ryan Kent only bolsters their chances of running Celtic to the wire and potentially winning the clubs first league title in 10 years. Although improved under Gerrard, it will take a monumental push for Rangers to be crowned champions come May despite winning the first Derby of the season as consistency is key.
1st Place Champions
This season has started with the two teams neck and neck after the first 10 matchdays; with Rangers in 1st place and Celtic sitting a point behind in 2nd with a game in hand over the league leaders. A lot of talk has been made of Celtic’s sluggish performances in a couple of games this season, especially Saturdays old firm derby, however, their ability to grind out results even when the performance has been lacking is why they are nine in a row champions. Key players Odsonne Edouard – who finished top goal scorer last season with 21 goals in the league- and new defensive reinforcement Shane Duffy will be pivotal to their campaign, as defensively Celtic have been somewhat lacking. Celtic’s experience and quality, we feel will prove too much this season and will help them seal the long sought after prize of 10 in a row.