CHRIS SUTTON has named two players he insists will be crucial to Celtic in the new season.

Matt O’Riley and Reo Hatate were not available to Ange Postecoglou this time last year as he prepared to embark upon his debut crusade as Hoops manager.

The midfielders joined at the turn of the year in the push for an extraordinary title success and played their part in the club winning their tenth flag in 11 years.

O’Riley was a £1.5million bargain purchase from third-tier MK Dons while Hatate joined along with J-League colleagues Daizen Maeda and Yosuke Ideguchi.

HOOP HOOP HOORAY…Matt O’Riley celebrates a goal against Hearts on Celtic’s way to the title.

Both hit the ground running and settled in at Parkhead with ease as the team took off on a glorious run all the way to the crown.

And former Celtic goal hero Sutton insists they will continue their impressive form as Postecoglou gets his squad ready for the rigours ahead, kicking off tomorrow afternoon with the league opener on Flag Day in the east end of Glasgow when Aberdeen provide the opposition.

The one-time England international hitman is tipping his old club for back-to-back championship triumphs and said: “I have them as slight favourites, even though Rangers, as last season, will be strong and tough challengers.

“Ange Postecoglou’s team really kicked on after the winter break last season to get their hands on the main prize and the January arrivals of Matt O’Riley and Reo Hatate were a big part of that.

ON THE BALL…Reo Hatate takes control in his midfield role.

“I see the pair of them as vital to the manager’s ambitions for this term. Callum McGregor is the fulcrum. The captain is central not just to the midfield but to the whole set-up.

“Unless someone is bought or Aaron Mooy is seen as a potential stand-in, Celtic are going to have to hope their skipper stays sound and in form for the majority of the season because he is the one guy in the set-up just now who they really can’t do without.

“O’Riley and Hatate, to my eye, look the first choices beside McGregor and they are going to have to back him up. From what I’ve seen, they are capable. More than capable.”

Sutton, speaking to the Daily Record, continued: “O’Riley will, of course, have to step up again to fill the void left by Tom Rogic. The Aussie is irreplaceable in the sense you won’t get anyone who can replicate what he had in terms of touch and talent.

“But O’Riley showed plenty in that second half of last season he can produce in his own style. He slotted immediately into the system and the side and his performances were high level.

BRING ON THE DONS…Aaron Mooy and Callum McGregor prepare for the big kick-off at Lennoxtown. Image courtesy Celtic TV.

“He has good vision, good passing, the eye for a goal and he can make things happen in the final third as well as doing some defensive duties. Having forced his way into the Denmark Under-21 squad, the door is open for him to try and burst through to the senior side in time for Qatar.

“The Champions League could be a big assist on that front. Do well there and that door might just fly off the hinges. Hatate is in the same boat and I’m excited by what he can potentially deliver.

“Like O’Riley, he wasted no time in showing his ability with two goals on your derby debut against Rangers an ideal way to win over a support. No-one can deny he flagged due to fatigue towards the finish, but after a summer rest and a good pre-season, it’s there for him because he has the lot.”

Sutton added: “Hatate has running power, he can finish, he can get into dangerous areas, he can move past people and he can pass it. His goal against Legia Warsaw 10 days ago was superb and I thought his performance against Norwich last Saturday was, at times, breathtaking.

“You can’t take your eyes off him in full cry and, if he pushes on, Celtic have a genuine star on their hands. Hatate must be motivated by the World Cup. He knows his team-mates Kyogo Furuhashi and Daizen Maeda are getting onto the Japan team flight and that’ll be inspiration in itself.

“He’ll want to be with them. Same as O’Riley will want that Denmark slot. That can only be of benefit to Celtic. I expect them both to start against Aberdeen tomorrow.”

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