JUST like that Celtic have again shot well clear of their rivals and continue to be the big fish in the small pond that is Scottish football.
There was a time, earlier in the 2019/20 season, when it looked as though Old Firm enemies Rangers would actually mount a serious challenge to the Bhoys in the title race.
As Gers boss Steven Gerrard infamously did during his stellar playing career at Liverpool, Celtic’s bitter Glasgow rivals have slipped up.
Meanwhile, Neil Lennon’s Hoops are sitting pretty atop the Scottish Premiership some 12 points clear with 10 league games left to play. It is a commanding and, let’s face it, probably unassailable position to be in.
The chase has faltered with Rangers dropping points like it’s going out of fashion. Nobody at Parkhead much cares, revelling in their rivals’ misfortune.
Celtic have gone about winning their matches while their closest challengers fell away. There is definitely a feeling of room to spare about this latest campaign as it winds down hereafter. Lennon at least isn’t counting his chickens, insisting the title is some way off.
A recent interview with the Bhoys boss saw him say that he could have never imagined building up such a strong lead by February. And yet, you can’t help but wonder whether Scottish football as a whole is poorer for this kind of domestic dominance by the Hoops?
As of 24 February, the latest online football betting markets have Celtic as overwhelming 1/25 favourites to win yet another Scottish Premiership title. They are also 5/4 for more Scottish FA Cup success having retained the League Cup.
Nine league titles in a row and the quadruple treble, a remarkable feat regardless of the strength of opposition, is a distinct possibility.
Better to come in Europe?
The stick used to beat the Bhoys is that, for all their utter domination in Scotland, it doesn’t translate onto the European stage. They beat the Coppa Italia winners Lazio, who count Serie A top goalscorer Ciro Immobile among their ranks, both home and away in the Europa League group stage this term.
While the champions of Scotland doing this double over the eighth-best team in Italy from last season doesn’t sound like much of a scalp, it is evidence of an improvement in continental club competition.
If the Hoops beat Copenhagen in tonight’s Europa League last 32-second leg clash at Parkhead, it will be the furthest they have gone in Europe since 2004. Yes, it has been that long since they won a knock-out phase tie in either the Champions League or this.
It’s not as though there haven’t been memorable European nights in Glasgow or for Celtic fans on the road over the last 16 years either. They just haven’t been strung together.
Any enthusiasm for a campaign going deep into the Europa League is tempered by the Bhoys’ outright win odds of 40/1. There are more fancied sides and teams with better claims of lifting the trophy than Lennon’s lads, then.
Edouard the new Dembele?
Ryan Christie has saved his best for Europe, with seven of his 11 goals coming in either the Champions League or Europa League.
In the Scottish Premiership, meanwhile, French forward Osdonne Edouard has shown why he was in PSG’s academy with a prolific season. He netted almost as many goals (21) as Rangers striker duo Jermain Defoe and Alfredo Morelos combined.
Edouard is neither winding down his career, like the former, nor struggling with discipline, like the latter. Aged 22, the world is very much his oyster and, if his prolific exploits continue, you wonder how much longer he will be at Parkhead.
The easy parallel to draw with Edouard is comparing him to Moussa Dembele, now with Lyon in France and regularly linked with top Premier League clubs. Celtic was, to all intents and purposes, a stepping stone for a young talent like him, whereas he may not have got as much game time at a big European team.
Barring someone like Defoe or Morelos from having a purple patch during the run-in, the Scottish Premiership Golden Boot looks to have Edouard’s name on it this term. Although this season looks like the competition has regressed, it may ultimately be that the Bhoys have made some progress.