Celtic FC 2013-14 Season Preview
In case you missed it, yesterday I did a “full” Scottish Premiership 2013-14 preview. I say full with scare quotes because it’s only 842 words. Really, you don’t need more. Celtic is going to win the league. Really the only thing that could stop Celtic from winning the league is a combination of some sort of intense sickness infecting the team for an extended period of time (or plane crash, etc.) AND a group of players for another team really stepping it up beyond anyones expectations. So, what I’m saying is there’s a chance.
Last year Celtic won the league by 16 points (5 1/3 wins) and had a goal differential of +57 (whereas Motherwell in 2nd sported a goal differential of +16). Celtic has had some huge losses (Hooper and Wanyama), but it’s not nearly enough to question Celtic winning the title.
And, just in case you think I’m exaggerating, the last team out of The Old Firm to win the Scottish top division was Aberdeen…in 1985. No Rangers means Celtic wins the title.
So, why spend an entire other article on Celtic? Well, Scottish football is in decline (although it has not yet hit the lows of the 90s). Scotland currently sit 24th in Europe and 17 of the leagues beneath them still have teams in Europe. Much to the chagrin of Rangers fans, Celtic is the leagues only hope at this point. Sure, St. Johnstone is still alive, but they may not be by the end of next Thursday. Now, there’s no need to be overly pessimistic. Some of those 17 countries will surely fall out by next Thursday. Also, it doesn’t get worse as far as spots until spot 52 so Scotland can still fall a long way (although they would have to enter European competition earlier, which means less rest and more chances to slip up). The more worrying thing is that they could fall further from the magic 15th spot, which is where you get two Champions League spots.
With that all out of the way, Celtic FC is competing in four competitions this year: UEFA Champions League, Scottish FA Cup, Scottish League Cup and the newly branded Scottish Premiership. The Champions League qualification process has already started and the Scottish Premiership campaign begins tomorrow, Saturday, August 3rd.
Given the dominance of Celtic and Rangers in Scotland, you might think Celtic would be a shoe-in for the cups, but last year that didn’t happen. Celtic did win the Scottish Cup, but lost in the semi-final of the Scottish League Cup to St. Mirren. There’s barely any reason in predicting the cups at this point in the season. Too many things can happen with injuries and the January transfer window. That’s the magic of cup football.
What one really needs to worry about, if one is a fan of Scottish football, is how far Celtic can go in the Champions League. Looking at their transfers up to this point, I’m not convinced they can go as far as they did last year.
|13 June 2013||Amido Baldé||Vitória Guimarães||£1.8 million|
|21 June 2013||Virgil van Dijk||FC Groningen||£2.6 million|
|16 July 2013||Steven Mouyokolo||Unattached||Free|
|30 July 2013||Derk Boerrigter||AFC Ajax||Undisclosed|
Total spend: £4.4 million
|31 May 2013||Paddy McCourt||Out of Contract||Released|
|30 June 2013||Lassad||Out of Contract||Released|
|1 July 2013||Daryl Murphy||Ipswich Town||Free|
|1 July 2013||Thomas Rogne||Wigan Athletic||Free|
|11 July 2013||Victor Wanyama||Southampton||£12.5 million|
|18 July 2013||James Keatings||Hamilton Academical||Free|
|26 July 2013||Robbie Thomson||Rochdale||Free|
|26 July 2013||Gary Hooper||Norwich City||£5.5 million|
Total spend: £18 million
The big losses, as mentioned above, will be obvious from the fees: Wanyama and Hooper. Wanyama has now commanded the largest transfer fee to leave the SPL/SPFL, taking that distinction away from Aiden McGeady (no idea how close they are when adjusted for inflation).
Now, there’s still a good chance that Celtic could bring in more players and, of course, we don’t know the group draws for the Champions League. It’s possible that Celtic could get a favorable draw. Still last year’s run included a win over Barcelona. No one expected that. Maybe that’s because Barcelona underestimated Celtic or maybe Barcelona is not as good as people think, but let me write that again so it sinks in: Celtic beat Barcelona. It’s just not going to happen again. Of course, maybe they don’t get paired with the team with the highest UEFA coefficient and then they don’t need a shock of that magnitude to get through. Basically, Celtic rode what might be called the luck of the Irish last year.
Now, maybe Baldé can replace Hooper. Portugal is undeniably a better league that Scotland and he was a one in three scorer for one of the clubs out of the traditional big three in Portugal. It will take some time for Balde to settle in though. While the league matches will give plenty of time to settle, I just don’t think this is the year for Celtic in Europe. Maybe next year, when the front line is better settled, but you never know what other pieces Celtic might lose in the off season.
Obviously, Boerrigter will be part of the newly formed attack. He’ll be the one making sure the 6’4” Balde has the ball on his head (fwiw, Boerrigter is also 6’4”, so they should be a force on corners). But, that just means more gelling is necessary on the front line. Is that possible before the October/November crunch of the Champions League group stage? I don’t know. Maybe it will depend on if they get any warm-up European matches.
Either way, I’ll be rooting for Celtic in Europe unless they come up against Manchester United. If you’re a fan of Scottish football, even a Rangers supporter, you’d better be supporting them too in Europe. Scotland can use all the help it can get!
If things change at Celtic FC, I’m sure they’ll let you know at the following podcasts:
- The Celtic Underground
- Hail Hail Media (actually a collection of shows…including apparently a Mets show ??)