Motherwell may have finished seven points clear of the chasing pack in the SPL runner’s up position last season, but given the player exodus from Fir Park this summer they are there to be shot at as 2/1 favourites in the 2013/14 SPL without Celtic betting.
First teamers Henrik Ojamaa, Darren Randolph, Nicky Law and Chris Humphrey have already departed Motherwell and with 26-goal SPL top scorer Michael Higdon and Tom Hateley now out of contract, hopes of keeping hold of that influential duo are not high.
Furthermore, a European campaign that is the reward for their excellent 2012/13 could well turn into a millstone around the necks of Stuart McCall’s men.
Despite finishing down the table in eighth last term, 10/3 second favourites Aberdeen look sure to mount a strong challenge for the silver medal behind Celtic.
The Dons were able to rely upon a hardy defensive foundation, with Mark Reynolds and Russell Anderson a formidable partnership at centre-half and they were tough to breach, particularly so at Pittodrie were they shipped just 15 times (one more than Celtic’s meanest SPL home defence).
Their problems came further forward, where Craig Brown was forced to tinker with his midfield set-up in a bid to bring more creativity to the side. Converted winger Niall McGinn’s 20 goals amounted to a single strike shy of half their league total, as they outgunned just two SPL rivals.
The Dons have waded into the market in a bid to remedy this and many of their five new signings come with the tantalising promise of goals.
Forwards Calvin Zola and Lawrence Shankland offer new broom Derek McInnes experience and youthful exuberance respectively after arriving at Pittodrie on the back of 14-goals seasons for Burton Albion and Queens Park, whilst midfield schemer Barry Robson will need no introduction as a goal-scoring midfielder to SPL scholars, having notched a Lampard-esque 32 goals from 145 appearances for Dundee United between 2003 and 2008.
Whilst some of Aberdeen’s rivals – such as Terry Butcher’s Inverness Caledonian Thistle – can boast even more extensive recruitment exercises on-going, most of them have had to bring players in to counteract departures.
Such a churn of players is nothing new to SPL gaffers outside the Old Firm, but it will nonetheless hinder them in attempting to pip the Dons to second spot this term.
In contrast the Granite City side haven’t been under pressure to move on any important players and look well positioned to throw down a challenge for the SPL without Celtic this term.
All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing.