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Scottish Football: Celtic primed for title glory

After Rangers romped to the Scottish Premiership title last season, Celtic have responded well this term and look well set to add a 52nd league trophy to their cabinet.

The Gers, under the guidance of Steven Gerrard, took the title by a massive 25 points in the 2021/21 campaign, ending Celtic's hopes of becoming the first Scottish team to win 10 straight league championships.

New faces in leading dugouts

Having been disappointed in their quest for a perfect 10, the Bhoys decided to appoint Ange Postecoglou in the summer, the Greek arriving from J1 League outfit Yokohama F. Marinos.

While the 56-year-old tactician has fitted in well at Parkhead, Rangers were forced to find a new coach just a few months into the season after Gerrard left for Premier League side Aston Villa on 11th November.

Former Netherlands international Giovanni van Bronckhorst - who played at Ibrox from 1998-2001 before making the switch to Arsenal - was handed the reins at his former employers and he does have the Gers in the hunt for the title heading into the remaining months of the campaign.

Both managers have been performing well in their respective dugouts, with Celtic top of the standings and three points ahead of second-placed Rangers after 28 games played.

With just five matches left before the league splits into two sections (top six and bottom six), there is plenty to play and the title battle could go right down to the wire.

Celtic can be backed at 4/11 to win the title, while Rangers are 2/1 to retain their trophy.

April clash crucial to title destination

While there is no guarantee both Celtic and Rangers will win their three respective league games before the duo meet at Ibrox on 3rd April, it would be a surprise if the Bhoys didn't still have a three-point lead over their rivals.

If the pair do take the maximum points from their next three top-flight outings, that would put huge significance on the meeting that takes place in just over a month's time.

A victory for the Gers would see them move level with the Bhoys, who themselves would stretch six points clear if they come out on top.

Of course, all of this is hypothetical, but it gives you an idea of how different the title race may look depending on how events pan out in the lead-up to the Ibrox clash and what the outcome is in the Old Firm game.

European aspirations to hamper Gers

While beating Celtic to the title is one of the main objectives for Rangers every season, there is the possibility of European success at Ibrox this season.

Van Bronckhorst recently guided the Gers into the last-16 stage of the Europa League after recording a sensational 6-4 aggregate victory over Borussia Dortmund - the Scottish giants won the first leg 4-2 in Germany before drawing 2-2 on home turf to advance into the next round.

Crvena Zvezda are next up for Rangers, who are looking to reach the quarter-finals of a European competition for the first time since the 2008 UEFA Cup.

Van Bronckhorst's men can be backed at 8/13 to win the first leg, which takes place on 10th March, while the draw is 13/5 and the hosts are 7/2 to triumph by two goals at Ibrox.

While it is great for the club that they are still in the Europa League, the longer they stay in the competition the more this is likely to hurt their chances of defending their league title.

After that fantastic 4-2 win in Dortmund, Rangers followed that up with a 1-1 draw at Dundee United. Next came the 2-2 draw with BVB - a great result - but a 2-2 draw at home to Motherwell then followed.

The Gers are putting so much effort in and expanding so much energy against their European opponents that they are struggling to recover in time for the league match that follows, and this could really hamper them if they keep progressing in Europe.

Japanese influence crucial

Celtic boss Postecoglou has used his knowledge of the J1 League to great effect and the quartet of Japanese players he has brought in from that division could prove crucial in the title battle.

Kyogo Furuhashi was brought in from Vissel Kobe in the summer and he has been an inspired acquisition, scoring eight goals from 14 league appearances.

Having had such success with the talented winger, Postecoglou dipped back into the J1 League in January and added no less than three new faces to his squad.

Reo Hatate joined from Kawasaki Front and he has three goals from eight outings, while Daizen Maeda has netted twice from six games since his loan transfer from Yokohama F. M.

Yosuke Ideguchi also arrived at Parkhead and, although only making one appearance, he gives the manager another option in midfield and provides cover for injuries and suspensions.

There may have been questions about some of Postecoglou's transfers this season, but the Greek has so far answered his critics and the title could well be heading back to Parkhead.

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