• Angus McGregor

Scottish Premiership 2020/21 League Predictions

The 2020/21 Scottish Premiership season starts today and as usual before the season kicks off, fans are predicting the outcome of this upcoming season. This season looks to be an exciting one with not much separating the teams outwith the Old Firm, meaning many teams could finish high near European spots or even just above the play-off zones, it's that tight. With this, the season is quite hard to predict, with many teams offering different strengths or weaknesses that have came into play with my predictions. If your team is lower here than you think, it is nothing personal and if it seems ridiculous, just remember Hearts went from 6th to 12th last season after a busy summer of signing players. Nonetheless, let's waste no more time and get right into the predictions.

12th. Hamilton Academical

You can never really bet on Accies to get relegated but we all do it anyway. Hamilton have become a nuisance in recent years, managing to stay up against all odds regardless of the situation. Accies deserve huge credit, with this season being their 7th straight campaign in the top flight which is an amazing feat regarding the club's resources. There are undoubtedly bigger clubs in the country than Hamilton but football at the end of the day is played on the pitch and Accies have managed to survive with a spirit that is commendable.

However, this year - and I know we say this every year - looks like it'll be the one to finally down Hamilton. The Accies squad looks too lightweight in a season where clubs are gonna need to make the most out of their squads and on top of that, looks to lack quality. The injury of David Templeton will hurt Accies attacking output massively but the main losses come from the Accies defence. Alex Gogic and Aaron McGowan have both moved on to Hibs and Kilmarnock and the Lanarkshire side will find it hard to replace the ever-present duo. Gogic was phenomenal for Accies and provided great cover in front of the backline or patrolling the defence at centre-half and his absence will be duly noted for the upcoming campaign. Brian Rice has worked wonders and has improved the club's effectiveness at both ends but will need to improve on this yet again with a weaker squad. For this reason, I don't see Accies pulling off yet another great escape. As a plastic pitch enthusiast, I hope this isn’t the case and that Accies can continue to frustrate many supporters for another year, as long as it’s not at the expense of my beloved Livi.

11th. Ross County

In 11th and in the playoff spot I have gone with Ross County, a close decision between the highland side and the club I have in 10th place. What worries me about County is their defence after conceding a massive 60 goals in 30 games last year. Most of these goals came against the teams in the top half but it has been proven that County will leak goals and teams may take advantage of that this upcoming season. The club has also lost their captain Marcus Fraser which will be a loss on the pitch as well within the dressing room. County do pose a greater threat going forward, with Ross Stewart and Billy McKay being very capable goalscorers and could make a difference. However, County don't get many goals from elsewhere on the pitch, with the duo scoring almost half of the club's league goals last season (14/29) with only three other players scoring more than once. The club's goal scoring record isn't that exceptional to cancel out the number of goals they ship and because of this, I could see the Highland side being punished more this upcoming season.

10th. St Mirren

A close call but I've tipped St Mirren to avoid the playoffs ahead of Ross County. I cited the Ross County defence as the reason why I feel like they will drop into the playoffs and part of that is based on Jim Goodwin's side. Jim Goodwin has done a great job at creating a solid defensive unit at the Simple Digitial Arena, with the Paisley side having the best defensive record outside the top 5. Despite losing talented keeper Vaclav Hladky, St Mirren have pulled off some very good signings in the form of Joe Shaughnessey, Richard Tait and Marcus Fraser that should see the club remain fairly solid. The loss of Hladky is the interesting part but the aforementioned players are all upgrades on last season's personnel and Goodwin should get the most out of the side. I feel it is more likely for the Buddies to frustrate teams than it is for County to outscore others which has ultimately been the deciding factor in the positioning between the two clubs. The Buddies may need to worry about where the goals come from and may rely heavily on Jon Obika to fire them to safety.

9th. Dundee United

Dundee United are finally making their return to the top flight of Scottish football and there are many who are tipping them for a great season, with a lot of predictions sitting them firmly in the top 6. I think this may be too much of an ask for the Terrors but still feel they should stay up fairly comfortably this season. The United squad is solid and deservedly won the Championship last season with Lawrence Shankland being one of the players to look out for this season as he completes his first full season in the top flight as a starting player. Shankland has had some great seasons and this will certainly be a new challenge for the striker who'll have even more eyes on him this season. Question marks will be over the head of new manager Micky Mellon, with the Scot having never played or managed in Scotland before. Starting a new season in a new league with a different manager doesn't always go to plan, with Kenny Miller and Alan Stubbs being recent victims of this. Mellon will be looking to avoid this and considering the club's first season back in the league and a new manager, 9th seems more than reasonable for this season.

8th. Kilmarnock

From 8th to 3rd, I really don't feel there is an awful lot that separates the teams in these positions which has made placing them fairly difficult. In 8th, I've chosen to go with Kilmarnock, far from a poor side with a strong core within their team. Alex Dyer hasn't quite got the best out of his squad yet with the Ayrshire side having a very poor season following their third-placed finish the season prior. There hasn't been much of an improvement in terms of players with the club losing Laurențiu Brănescu and Stephen O'Donnell, replacing them with Aberdeen's Danny Rodgers and Hamilton's Aaron McGowan. I am not sure this is an improvement on the squad and the club will need to rely on that strong core of Findlay, Dicker, Power and Brophy to have a successful season. The aforementioned Brophy will need more support going forward as Kille scored fewer goals for the second season running (per 30 games, 2019/20 (31), 2018/19 (39), 2017/18 (40)), and could be the main reason as to why Killie finish 8th for the second straight season.

7th. Livingston

Livi have surprised teams for two straight seasons and have built up a strong squad overall which often gets overlooked. Nonetheless, Livi's season may rely on the future of Lyndon Dykes and should he leave, who the club replaces him with. As of right now, Dykes remains at Livi and is a massive boost for the Lions top 6 hopes but I have the West Lothian side just missing out this time round. The Lions away form still proves to be an issue and with teams who finished below them strengthening, I can see Livi dropping out of the top 6. Gary Holt's side should (hopefully) be safe from the drop this upcoming season, with the side's defence not suffering many changes this time around whilst strengthening in attacking positions. Again, should Dykes leave then this side will be looking elsewhere for a new main man and this uncertainty makes it hard for me to put Livi within the top 6.

6th. St Johnstone

St Johnstone are probably the most overlooked team in the Scottish Premiership with the team in great form before the season was cancelled. The Saints had a dreadful start but managed to turn things around, only losing 2 of their last 15 games and landing 6th place via points per game. The Saints have lost a pair of Wright's in form of manager Tommy and winger Drey who departed for Hibs this summer. Despite this, the Perth side still have a squad that is a good mix of exciting young talent and experienced heads that combined tremendously at the end of last season. The emergence of Ali McCann and Callum Hendry has made them talents to keep an eye on with both proving to be bright prospects for the future. With Callum Davidson familiar at the club already, I don't think there will be as much of a teething process and think Saints fans can look forward to a solid season. An underrated side in the top flight, Saints may take many by surprise this season and land in 6th place for the second season running.

5th. Aberdeen

I'm a big admirer of Derek McInnes and the job he has done at Aberdeen but I think this will be his toughest season yet. The club had quite a poor campaign last season and looked out of ideas when attacking and I don't feel these issues have been adequately addressed. Jonny Hayes has returned but there will be questions whether the 33-year-old still has the quality to deliver week in and out as the Dons desperately need attacking quality. The recent injury to Sam Cosgrove will see him out for 10 weeks which is a massive blow as the striker scored 11 goals and plays a huge role in McInnes' gameplan. The other teams around Aberdeen have improved which has put doubt in my mind for their season, where I think they will drop to their lowest position under Derek McInnes full control. This Aberdeen side needs investment but the club has stated they'll only bring players into the club if they can get rid of some themselves. Regarding the need for money and players needed, this would probably mean losing either Cosgrove or Scott McKenna to get funds for a proper rebuild. The Dons should still sit comfortably in the top 6, staying solid defensively and hoping young strikers Bruce Anderson and Ryan Edmondson can hit the ground running and keep their goals of European football alive.

4th. Hibernian

I'm a huge fan of the signing of Alex Gogic by Hibs. Last season, it was obvious Hibs were lacking a nastiness in midfield and someone who could truly protect the backline. They've scooped up Gogic on a free transfer which could very well be the signing of the season as the Cypriot is exactly the kind of player Hibs were crying out for last season. Hibs have shown they are more than capable going forward, with the Leith side scoring the third most goals last season but their defence was 9th worst. With this record, Hibs just missed out on top 6 and a lack of a solid holding midfielder didn't help their causes at all. I fully expect Gogic to make a significant impact on the number of goals shipped as teams won't easily be able to soar through the Hibees midfield as they did at times last season. The likes of Scott Allan and Stephen Mallan will be thankful for this protection and will be allowed to progress further forward and attack in the final third due to this. The defence isn't the finished article but slight adjustments alongside the goalscoring output showcase a bright season for Jack Ross' side. Christian Doidge will score goals and the addition of Kevin Nisbet is a very exciting prospect with the striker offering something different at Easter Road. There won't be an Edinburgh derby in the league this season but I'd imagine Hibs fans will be okay with that should they jump up a few positions this coming season.

3rd. Motherwell

Despite a shaky end to the season, Motherwell had a successful season that has brought the club European football this season. Stephen Robinson has quietly gone about assembling a quality squad mainly through free transfers, the signing of now club captain Declan Gallagher arguably the signing of the season in the Scottish Premiership last season. Motherwell showed their quality last season and I expect them to do the same this season. David Turnbull will be returning from injury which is a massive boost as the talented midfielder exploded onto the scene in the 2018/19 season. Alongside Turnbull is the return of Jake Hastie on loan, who also had an excellent campaign that season before joining Rangers. Ricki Lamie and Jordan White are among other recruits who have added depth and quality to the Motherwell team who look to be even stronger this season. Due to this, I think Motherwell should create more distance ahead of their rivals as they cement third place as their own.

2nd. Rangers

In the positioning of Livingston and Aberdeen, I noted the influence of departing/missing strikers as a reason why they may not succeed and the same goes for Rangers. Jermain Defoe is currently injured and Alfredo Morelos is constantly being linked with moves away from the club which could leave the club shorthanded in attacking positions. In an incredibly important season for the Gers, the club is in need of more talent in-depth, not having stars head the other way. Last season showed how Rangers needed more game-changers and options around the squad but these moves haven't happened yet. Joe Aribo has looked sharp and the signing of Ianis Hagi is a great piece of business but both were squad members the previous season meaning there is no real improvement to the attack just yet. The defence seems to do a fine job with the least goals conceded last season but could also do with a few extra bodies to help with the club's gruelling schedule. Rangers are capable of going toe to toe with Celtic but need more quality and will need to add some if they have any hope of winning the top flight. There's plenty of time to go in this transfer window where quality additions can be made to the squad but as it stands, it seems as if Rangers will fall short.

1. Celtic

It won't come as a surprise that I, like many, have gone with Celtic to win the 2020/21 title and achieve a historic 10 in a row. Celtic have the best squad with depth that is unmatched and ultimately seemed to sway things in their favour last season. Goals and assists came from numerous individuals like Odsonne Edouard, James Forrest and Ryan Christie, with Leigh Griffiths and Tom Rogic providing handy contributions as second choice options which really showcases the side's talents. Celtic also very importantly have the mental edge over Rangers, with the Hoops not flinching when at the top of the league. Celtic don't drop many silly points and have that knack of reaching that extra gear in order to achieve a positive result, a sign of champions that has separated Neil Lennon's side from rivals in recent years. It won't be a surprise to see Scott Brown lift the title again this coming May as the Hoops are undoubtedly favourites to win the 2020/21 title.

And there goes my predictions for the 2020/21 season! If your team is lower than you feel they should be, don't worry, this will very unlikely be the final league table and the positioning of your club doesn't mean I hate them. Bar the top two, I think this will be a competitive season and an exciting one at that with a lot of talented players on show. It's great to have our league back and hopefully, our fans will be able to return to stadiums sooner rather than later. As the season starts today, all the best to your teams (except when playing Livi) and let's enjoy another mad season of Scottish football!

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