Scottish Premier League preview: Will Aberdeen continue to interfere in the Old Firm's business?
The 2018/19 Scottish Premiership kicks off on Saturday with defending champions, Celtic, aiming to win their eighth successive title in a row. Brendan Rodgers side have dominated the SPL for the last two seasons by winning back-to-back trebles. However, that success is in the past now and they are the team that everyone will be aiming to bring down.
Expectations will be on Steven Gerrard and his Rangers side to put the most pressure on Celtic, but Derek McInnes at Aberdeen and Neil Lennon at Hibernian will have their own hopes of pushing into the top two this season. Outside of those four, the main contenders will most likely be Kilmarnock who have hugely progressed since Steve Clarke took over.
With the league splitting after 33 games, there will be another place available in the top six. The likelihood is that will go to one of Hearts, St Johnstone or Motherwell. The latter of the trio had an excellent season last year by reaching two cup finals, but fell to Celtic on both occasions.
At the bottom of the table, one team will definitely go down with another going into the playoffs. From the other four sides, St Mirren look like they are the best team and despite losing Jack Ross to Sunderland, Alan Stubbs is a good replacement. From Dundee, Hamilton and Livingston, the most likely to go down are Livingston. Picking between the other two, Hamilton looks to be a little weaker with Dundee having made fewer changes, therefore, they should be more settled; giving them a better opportunity to avoid the dreaded drop.
Manager: Derek McInnes
Last season: 2nd
|Stephen Gleeson (CM)||Ipswich||FT||Anthony O'Connor (CB)||Bradford City||FT|
|Tomas Cerny (GK)||Partick Thistle||FT||Danny Rogers (GK)||St Mirren||L|
|Chris Forrester (LM)||Peterborough||?||Adam Rooney (CF)||Salford||?|
|Tommie Hoban (CB)||Watford||L||Nicky Maynard (CF)||---|
|Dominic Ball (CB)||Rotherham Utd||L|
|Lewis Ferguson (CM)||Hamilton Acad||?|
Remaining needs: Probably the most important thing for Aberdeen is to hold onto Scott McKenna. The centre back has been linked with a move to Swansea City but the Dons are insisting they won't sell him for less than £10m. Will they be true to their word?
Season outlook: Aberdeen have been second to Celtic in the league for four years in a row now and if they could consolidate that position it would be another superb achievement. Rangers will present a new challenge along with Hibs and Kilmarnock but McInnes has been superb and will want to keep the club as the nearest challengers to Celtic.
Manager: Brendan Rodgers
Last season: 1st
|Odsonne Edouard (CF)||Paris St Germain||£9.27m||Stuart Armstrong (CM)||Southampton||£7.16m|
|Scott Bain (GK)||Dundee||FT||Erik Sviatchenko (CB)||Midtjylland||£1.03m|
|Nadir Ciftci (CF)||Genclerbirligi||FT|
|Jamie Lindsay (CM)||Ross County||FT|
|Joe Thomson (AM)||Dunfermline||FT|
|Sam Wardrop (RB)||Dundee Utd||FT|
|Jamie McCart (CB)||Inverness CT||FT|
Remaining needs: Fans would tell you that a new centre-back is the priority, but it seems Hibernian's John McGinn is the man Brendan Rodgers really wants. McGinn is a midfielder and many regard him as the long-term replacement for Scott Brown. The reality is Celtic will have two sets of transfers lined up. One lot will be if they reach the Champions League group stage, with the other being if the club goes into the Europa League.
Season outlook: Rodgers enters his third season in charge of Celtic and he is yet to lose a domestic trophy. The club still look to be streets ahead of their rivals and even a challenge to them picking up an eighth successive title would come as a bit of a surprise.
Manager: Neil McCann
Last season: 9th
|Jean Alassane Mendy (CF)||Lokeren||FT||Kostadin Gadzhalov (CB)||Botev Vratsa||FT|
|Elton N'Gwatala (AM)||Kidderminster||FT||Scott Bain (GK)||Celtic||FT|
|Nathan Ralph (LB)||Woking||FT||Nicky Low (LM)||Derry City||FT|
|Jack Hamilton (GK)||Hearts||?||Julen Etxabeguren (CB)||Real Union||FT|
|Karl Madianga (DM)||---||Kevin Holt (LB)||Pafos||FT|
|Randy Wolters (LW)||NEC Nijmegen||FT|
|Jon Aurtenetxe (LB)||Amorebieta||FT|
|Jeremy Malherbe (GK)||Panionios||FT|
|Kerr Waddell (CB)||Morton||L|
|Marcus Haber (CF)||Falkirk||L|
|James Vincent (CM)||Dunfermline||L|
|Mark O'Hara (DM)||Peterborough||?|
|Faissal El Bakhtaoui (CF)||Dunfermline||L|
Remaining needs: Dundee are short of bodies. At present, they only have a first-team squad of 18 and will have to add to that number. Neil McCann has said he'd like two or three more signings and feels a goalscorer, in particular, is required.
Season outlook: Dundee looked to be in trouble last season as they entered the last five games right in the relegation mix and in bad form. However, they managed to sort themselves out with three wins to move clear of trouble. They look like a side who will struggle and it would be a surprise to see them anywhere other than the bottom third of the table.
Manager: Martin Canning
Last season: 10th
|Tom Taiwo (DM)||Falkirk||FT||Ali Crawford (LM)||Doncaster Rvrs||FT|
|Aaron McGowan (RB)||Morecambe||FT||David Templeton (RW)||Burton Albion||FT|
|Ziggy Gordon (RB)||Pogon Siedlce||FT||Kenny van der Weg (LB)||KSV Roeselare||FT|
|Aaron Smith (AM)||Nottingham Forest||FT||Darren Jamieson (GK)||Arbroath||FT|
|Mason Bloomfield (CF)||Norwich||L||Daniel Redmond (AM)||The New Saints||FT|
|Sam Kelly (LM)||Grimsby Town||?||Lewis Ferguson (CM)||Aberdeen||?|
|Alex Penny (CB)||Peterborough||?||Xavier Tomas (CB)||---|
|Adam Phillips (DM)||Norwich||L||Antonio Rojano (CF)||---|
|Lennard Sowah (LB)||---||Georgios Sarris (CB)||---|
|Alex Garcia (CB)||Marbella||L|
Remaining needs: Hamilton have made changes aplenty already this summer, with ten in and nine out. There is a shortage of left-sided players though, so if they are to make any more signings, expect a left back or left-winger to arrive.
Season outlook: It's hard to have success when you make as many changes as Hamilton does. When a player shines he is generally snapped up by the bigger clubs and then the club have to try to unearth another gem. It's an impossible formula to have consistent success with and being a top-flight side this time next year would be a huge achievement for the Accies.
Manager: Craig Levein
Last season: 6th
|Benjamin Garuccio (LB)||Adelaide Utd||FT||Angus Beith (CM)||Inverness CT||FT|
|Peter Haring (CB)||SV Reid||FT||Jon McLaughlin (GK)||Sunderland||FT|
|Uche Ikpeazu (CF)||Cambridge Utd||FT||Conor Sammon (CF)||Motherwell||L|
|Olly Lee (CM)||Luton Town||FT||Ally Roy (CF)||Derry City||?|
|Colin Doyle (GK)||Bradford City||FT||Jack Hamilton (GK)||Dundee||?|
|Steven MacLean (CF)||St Johnstone||FT||Nikolay Todorov (CF)||---|
|Jake Mulraney (RM)||Inverness CT||FT||Prince Buaben (CM)||---|
|Ryan Edwards (AM)||Partick Thistle||FT|
|Oliver Bozanic (CM)||Melbourne City||FT|
|Bobby Burns (CM)||Glenavon||?|
|Zdenek Zlamal (GK)||FC Zlin||?|
Remaining needs: Much will depend on what happens with Kyle Lafferty and his proposed move to Rangers. Should the Northern Irishman leave, then a forward will most likely come in. They have already been linked to Birmingham's Greg Stewart and he could sign regardless whether Lafferty departs are not. Aberdeen are also interested in the attacker.
Season outlook: Hearts are a huge club and up there amongst the biggest in Scotland. However, they had a rough season last year and won't be happy with finishing as low as sixth. They have made a lot of changes which is far from ideal, and a top-six finish would probably be a good return; although the fans will expect and demand better.
Manager: Neil Lennon
Last season: 4th
|Stevie Mallan (CM)||Barnsley||£180k||Simon Murray (CF)||Bidvest Wits||£151k|
|Florian Kamberi (CF)||Grasshoppers||£117k||Cammy Bell (GK)||Partick Thistle||FT|
|Adam Bogdan (GK)||Liverpool||L||Dylan McGeouch (CM)||Sunderland||FT|
|Callum Crane (LB)||Livingston||FT|
Remaining needs: Celtic are trying to sign John McGinn but if Hibs can hold onto him, that would be huge news for the club. Neil Lennon has already said he feels the team are missing a little bit of quality and if McGinn goes he would take a lot of replacing. They may also want to bring in a defender as although they have been scoring goals, they are shipping far too many at the back.
Season outlook: Holding onto Neil Lennon was a big thing for Hibs but the frustration looks to be building in the Irishman already. He has spoken out about needing creative players so can the board match his ambitions? They are already the only club outside Celtic and Rangers to have spent cash on players but will it be enough to push towards the top three?
Manager: Steve Clarke
Last season: 5th
|Stuart Findlay (CB)||Newcastle||FT||Leo Fasan (GK)||Falkirk||FT|
|Ross Millen (RB)||Queen's Park||FT||Youssouf Mulumbu (DM)||---|
|Mikael Ndjoli (LW)||Bournemouth||L||Brad Spencer (M)||---|
|Calum Waters (LB)||Sligo Rovers||L||Dean Hawkshaw (DM)||---|
|Alexander Samizadeh (LW)||---|
|Gordon Greer (CB)||---|
|Aaron Simpson (RB)||Wolves||L|
|Steven Smith (LB)||---|
Remaining needs: The squad looks to be in good shape with Steve Clarke managing to hang onto most of his key players while bringing in a few to help strengthen his numbers. There isn't really an obvious area that needs improvements based on the kind of money Killie have available, but you can be sure Clarke will be working until the window shuts in case he can get another one or two over the line.
Season outlook: The biggest asset Kilmarnock have is in their dugout. For a club like Killie to have a man like Clarke in charge is massive, and he's done a great job over the last twelve months. They should be aiming to get closer to Aberdeen and Hibs and maybe even push on for a place in Europe.
Manager: Kenny Miller
Last season: 2nd, Scottish Championship, Promoted
|Steven Saunders (RB)||The New Saints||FT||Josh Mullin (RM)||Ross County||FT|
|Ricki Lamie (CB)||Morton||FT||Gregor Buchanan (CB)||Morton||FT|
|Callum Crane (LB)||Hibernian||FT||Jackson Longridge (LB)||Dunfermline||FT|
|Kenny Miller (CF)||Rangers||FT||Dylan Mackin (CF)||Falkirk||?|
|Cameron Blues (CM)||Falkirk||FT||Neil Alexander (GK)||Retired|
|Ryan Hardie (CF)||Rangers||L|
|Egli Kaja (RW)||AFC Wimbledon||L|
|Craig Sibbald (AM)||Falkirk||?|
|Liam Kelly (GK)||Rangers||?|
|Ross Stewart (GK)||St Mirren||?|
Remaining needs: Livingston have already made 10 signings as they look to stay in the Scottish Premiership, including their new player-manager, Kenny Miller. The Scot has already raided his old club, Rangers, for three signings and once the Ibrox club have their own squad sorted it wouldn't be a shock to see more Rangers men come in on loan.
Season outlook: Miller is a good appointment as player-manager. He has a lot of experience and can still do a job on the field. Whether he transfers that to the dugout is another matter but realistically the target will be to maintain top-flight status and anything else can be worried about next summer.
Manager: Steve Robinson
Last season: 7th
|Danny Johnson (CF)||Gateshead||FT||Russell Griffiths (GK)||Fylde||FT|
|Aaron Taylor-Sinclair (LB)||Plymouth||FT||Deimantas Petravicius (RW)||Falkirk||FT|
|Alex Gorrin (CM)||Sepsi||FT||Ross MacLean (RW)||Morton||L|
|Liam Donnelly (RB)||Hartlepool||?||Ellis Plummer (CB)||---|
|Mark Gillespie (GK)||Walsall||?||Luke Watt (RB)||---|
|Conor Sammon (CF)||Hearts||L|
Remaining needs: Motherwell need to bring in at least one or two defenders. They are immensely short at centre0back and with Charles Dunne picking up a serious injury, they might also want to bring in cover for him.
Season outlook: It was a mixed season for Motherwell last year. They will be disappointed to have finished outside the top six but getting to two cup finals was a great achievement. However, losing both of them will stick in the throat, but in Steve Robinson, they have a good manager and should target the top six this season.
Manager: Steven Gerrard
Last season: 3rd
|Connor Goldson (CB)||Brighton||£3.06m||David Bates (CB)||Hamburg||FT|
|Nikola Katic (CB)||Slaven Belupo||£2.05m||Kenny Miller (CF)||Livingston||FT|
|Jamie Murphy (LW)||Brighton||£1.08m||Bruno Alves (CB)||Parma||FT|
|Allan McGregor (GK)||Hull City||FT||Fabio Cardosa (CB)||Santa Clara||FT|
|Scott Arfield (LM)||Burnley||FT||Jordan Thompson (CM)||Blackpool||FT|
|Jon Flanagan (RB)||Liverpool||FT||Harry Forrester (LW)||Tractor Sazi||FT|
|Umar Sadiq (CF)||Roma||L||Ryan Hardie (CF)||Livingston||L|
|Lassana Coulibaly (CM)||Angers||L||Carlos Pena (CM)||Necaxa||L|
|Ovie Ejaria (CM)||Liverpool||L||Michael O'Halloran (RW)||Melbourne City||?|
|Ryan Kent (LW)||Liverpool||L||Eduardo Herrera (CF)||Santos Laguna||L|
|Joe Dodoo (LW)||Blackpool||L|
|Liam Kelly (GK)||Livingston||?|
|Jason Holt (CM)||Fleetwood Town||L|
Remaining needs: Steven Gerrard is looking for another attacker with Kyle Lafferty top of his list. They are some way off Hearts' valuation of the Northern Ireland international for now, but perhaps progression in Europe will allow them to get that deal done.
Season outlook: Gerrard is the next one entrusted to try to end Celtic's dominance in Scotland but the signings won't have Brendan Rodgers or Celtic worried. It will be another season of battling it out with Aberdeen, Hibs and maybe Kilmarnock for second prize.
Manager: Tommy Wright
Last season: 8th
|Matty Kennedy (RW)||Cardiff||FT||Chris Millar (CM)||Morton||FT|
|Drey Wright (RM)||Colchester||FT||Alan Mannus (GK)||Shamrock Rovers||FT|
|Conor Mitchell (GK)||Burnley||L||Steven MacLean (CF)||Hearts||FT|
|Tony Watt (CF)||---||Keith Watson (RB)||Ross County||FT|
|Ben McKenzie (GK)||---|
Remaining needs: Tommy Wright seems to be happy with his lot, while in a recent interview, stating that he put a plan together in January and feels like he has now managed to achieve everything that he wanted. That said, the window is still open until the end of the month so if injuries or poor form kick in he may dip into the market again.
Season outlook: Only Derek McInnes has been in his current job longer than Tommy Wright and the Northern Irishman has done a great job with The Saints on few resources. A good season would be keeping well clear of the relegation zone and maybe even get a decent run in one of the cup competitions. The top six probably isn't beyond them but I'd expect them to just miss out.
Manager: Alan Stubbs
Last season: 1st Scittish Championship, Promoted
|Paul McGinn (RB)||Partick Thistle||FT||Darren Whyte (CB)||Forfar||FT|
|Cody Cooke (CF)||Truro City||FT||Nathan Flanagan (LB)||Raith||FT|
|Jim Kellerman (CM)||Aldershot||FT||Gavin Reilly (CF)||Bristol Rovers||FT|
|Jeff King (AM)||Bolton||FT||Stelios Dimitriou (LB)||Ross County||FT|
|Hayden Coulson (LB)||Middlesbrough||L||Harry Davis (CB)||Grimsby||FT|
|Matty Willock (CM)||Manchester United||L||Josh Todd (AM)||Queen of the South||FT|
|Josh Heaton (CB)||Darlington||?||Darryl Duffy (CF)||Airdrieonians||FT|
|Danny Rogers (GK)||Aberdeen||L||Myles Hippolyte (LM)||Dunfermline||?|
|Cole Kpekawa (LB)||---||Ross Stewart (GK)||Livingston||?|
|John Sutton (CF)||Retired|
|Massimo Donati (DM)||---|
|Gary Irvine (RB)||---|
|Jamie Langfield (GK)||Retired|
Remaining needs: Alan Stubbs is keen to add a striker to his squad but confirmed last week that it might not happen until later in the month as he wants to wait on the right player. The newly promoted Buddies have already made nine signings and a striker would likely be the end of their transfer business.
Season outlook: St Mirren were so impressive in winning the Championship last season that their manager, Jack Ross was snapped up by Sunderland. In terms of replacements, they couldn't really have done much better than Stubbs and the former Hibs boss should be able to see them maintain their top-flight status and maybe even challenge for a top six place.