Ladbrokes Prem Preview: Value in Aberdeen to be the best-of-the-rest
Last season saw a rollercoaster ride in the Ladbrokes Premiership. At the top of the table, Celtic fans waited with bated breath to see if their side could end the season undefeated (they did!), while Aberdeen tussled with Rangers for second spot.
Oh, and there was the small matter of a four-way relegation scrap which saw Hamilton Academical escape in dramatic fashion, while Inverness Caledonian Thistle fell through the trapdoor.
So, what are we predicting this season? Here’s our guide to all 12 Premiership sides.
Having finished nine points above Rangers with a goal difference of +39 to the Gers’ +12, it’s a real surprise to see the dynamic Dons as second-favourites in the Betting Without Celtic market – especially on the back of their recent Europa League masterclass against Siroki Brijeg.
With the likes of Adam Rooney, Greg Stewart, Jayden Stockley and Nicky Maynard to chose from up front, they’ve got an embarrassment of riches in attack. They’re unlikely to give Brendan Rodgers’ ‘Invincibles’ too much of a scare in the title race, but we can’t see them finishing below second.
Betting without Celtic: 5/4
What can you say that hasn’t been said already? Rodgers’ ‘Invicibles’ conquered all before them in the Scottish game last season, winning all three domestic honours without losing a single match. And having started strongly in the Champions League this term, we’re expecting more of the same in 2017-18.
Going unbeaten for the entire campaign once again is a huge ask, especially in a stronger division, with Hibernian back and the Dons having strengthened. But there’s value in the Bhoys lifting another treble this term.
Celtic to win the Treble: 9/2
Goals were the issue for the Dark Blues last term, with Neil McCann’s men failing to score on 16 occasions last term. That’s seen the club recruit Soufien Moussa from catchily-named Ukrainian side Lokomotiv Gorna Oryahovitsa.
That looks a good buy on paper, but much rests on how the Tunisian does this term. Especially so as the club have failed to significantly bolster a defence which looked pretty shaky last term. Another 10th placed finish could well be on the cards.
Handicap – Dundee (+45): 8/1
Accies broke a club record after May’s play-off triumph against Dundee United, securing a fourth consecutive season of top-flight football for the first time in their history. The question now is whether the Premiership’s smallest club can perform another escape act.
Retaining key men like Ali Crawford, Dougie Imrie and Grant Gillespie stands them in good stead, but shipping four goals to Albion Rovers in the League Cup last week cast a stark light on Hamilton’s vulnerability. A relegation scrap seems inevitable – but if any side knows how to handle those, it’s Martin Canning’s men.
Top 6 finish: 7/1
Heart of Midlothian
Tynecastle holds plenty of happy memories from last season for Hearts fans, as the Jam Tarts chalked up nine wins on their own patch, including victory over Rangers. But they desperately need to fix an away record which saw the Gorgie club pick up just 14 points on the road last term.
Hearts are a hard one to call right now with the managerial situation up in the air following the sacking of Ian Cathro. With meetings against Celtic, Rangers and Aberdeen during the first month of the league campaign, we’ll have a better idea by mid-September.
Top 6 finish: 2/5
The loss of Jason Cummings will have left many at Easter Road concerned about where the goals would come from this term. But those fears have been quickly assuaged by newboy Simon Murray, who has netted seven times in four League Cup outings. Add Anthony Stokes’ return to that, and they should have no struggles in front of goall.
With the infrastructure at the club, a top-class manager in the shape of Neil Lennon and one of the division’s bigger fanbases, we can’t see them finishing outside the top six on their return.
Top 6 finish: 4/9
Lee McCulloch has targeted both ends of the spectrum in this summer’s transfer window – bringing in experienced pros like Kirk Broadfoot and Alan Power, as well as exciting young talents like midfielder Dom Thomas from Motherwell.
That savvy business bodes well for the season ahead, and with the evergreen Kris Boyd still chipping in with vital goals, we can’t see them struggling too much. If push comes to shove, we’re saying they’ll finish seventh.
Top 6 finish: 7/2
Inexperience could be a big problem for the Well this season. Captain and club servant Keith Lasley hung up his boots in the summer, while Lionel Ainsworth and Scott McDonald also said their goodbyes to Fir Park.
The new arrivals are largely raw and inexperienced youngsters – and while there’s talent in there, some of the newbies could be set for a rude awakening amidst the high-intensity physicality of the Premiership. Add an unconvincing pre-season into the mix, and you have our pick for the drop. Sorry guys!
To finish bottom: 5/1
The Caley Jags recorded their best finish since 1981 last term, cracking the top-six thanks to an excellent record against the sides around them. Talking to Ladbrokes News, Chris Erskine highlighted the big issue now as the “need to do better against the bigger teams”.
If they can begin to take points off the Old Firm and Aberdeen, another top-six finish is likely, especially with the likes of Erskine, Kris Doolan and boss Alan Archibald all still on board. Having already smashed St Mirren 5-0 in the League Cup, the Firhill club clearly mean business.
Top 6 finish: 4/1
It’s been a weird lead-up to this season for Pedro Caixinha’s men. Knocked out of the Europa League by a club that sounds like a healthy cereal – Progres Niedercorn – they then went on to produce a masterclass to win 2-0 against Sheffield Wednesday in a friendly at Hillsborough.
Perhaps it’s to be expected. The Portuguese begins this season with a squad almost unrecognisable from the one we saw last term. Striker Pedro Morelos will guarantee goals, but the side around him will need time to gel. Expect another third-placed finish.
Rangers to beat Motherwell [Sunday 6 August]: 8/13
Despite a less-than-stellar defensive record last term, the Staggies have been impenetrable in defence during the League Cup group stage, with four clean sheets proving a springboard to a quartet of victories (though two required penalties).
The summer exit of last season’s Premiership top-scorer Liam Boyce to Burton Albion has nullified their goal threat, meaning they’re likely to finish in the bottom half, but Jim McIntyre’s newly-robust side won’t find themselves in too much trouble.
Top 6 finish: 12/5
First off, Saints boss Tommy Wright deserves a huge pat on the back for steering the club to a third successive top-four finish last term, and more important than any signing or departure in the playing staff is the fact the Northern Irishman has remained at McDiarmid Park.
With Hibs back, top four is an especially tough act to repeat this season, but with the Perth club having seen few changes in their squad over the summer, it’s unlikely we’ll see much of a drop in their placing this term. Another top-half finish looks like good value at 4/5.
Top 6 finish: 4/5
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All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing