While the English Premier League clubs are currently embarking on various pre-season tours, their Scottish counterparts are warming up for the new campaign which starts this coming weekend with champions Rangers entertaining Hearts at Ibrox in the lunchtime encounter.
Rangers narrowly pipped Celtic to the post last season although Walter Smith has stepped down as manager and Ally McCoist is clearly an unknown quantity due to a lack of experience in the hotseat. Nevertheless, the 48-year-old has been Smith’s understudy for several seasons and many might fancy the 11/10 with Paddy Power (£100 free bet) that he leads the Gers to another title success.
There will be no love lost when McCoist comes face to face with Neil Lennon during the Old Firm matches this season, with the two men having squared up on the sidelines last season and the Scottish authorities will be hoping for a more mature approach from the respective managers of Glasgow’s Big Two.
The way in which Celtic allowed the SPL title to slip out of their grasp last season will have hurt Lennon badly and the Bhoys are marginal favourites at 5/6 (William Hill – £25 free bets) to claim the title, with Victor Mugabe Wanyama arriving at Celtic Park with rave reviews. Beram Kayal, Emilio Izaguirre and Ki Sung-Yeung are the other players who should help the Hoops to go close.
The bookmakers don’t anticipate too much of a challenge from any other team, with Hearts next best at 66/1 (Betfred) and Dundee United available at 150/1 (Stan James).