The final matches of the 2016/2017 Scottish Premiership take place this weekend. Celtic, who wrapped up the title with a 5-0 win at Hearts in early April, are bidding to go through the entire campaign unbeaten when they face the same rivals at Parkhead on Sunday.
Rodgers’ side maintained their momentum by thrashing Partick Thistle 5-0 at Firhill on Thursday night and the former Liverpool boss says it would be a “remarkable achievement” to become the first team to go through a 38-game Scottish Premiership season without tasting defeat.
Celtic lie 30 points ahead of nearest rivals Aberdeen, but Sunday’s final league fixture is now a game of huge significance rather than the usual end of season dead rubber.
Celtic have won all three league games against Hearts this season (by an aggregate score of 11-1), suggesting that the unbeaten run is in little danger, even if some players will have one eye on next week’s Scottish Cup Final against Aberdeen.
Next season’s priority will again be the Champions League
Rodgers will need to add one or to quality signings to the squad if he’s to avoid a repeat of the 7-0 group-stage mauling by Barcelona.
The campaign had started with a humiliating 1-0 defeat by Gibraltan minnows Lincoln Red Imps in the first qualifying round but there were one or two positives in the group stage, notably the 3-3 home draw with Manchester City, who were seeking an 11th straight win at the time.
Are you Morinho in disguise?
It’s been a tough road back for Rangers after the liquidation process of 2012 and they finally ended their lower-division stint by winning the Championship under the leadership of Mark Warburton last season.
Warburton parted company in February of this year, with Pedro Caixinha taking over the reins on a three-year deal.
After reportedly being advised by fellow Portuguese Jose Morinho to come to Scotland, Caixinha wanted to be a better boss.
The nine league games for the new manager have produced four wins and two draws but a 5-1 home thrashing by bitter rivals Celtic and Wednesday’s 2-1 defeat by Aberdeen ended any hope of a second-place finish.
They currently find themselves nine points back in third place.
Caixinha came in for plenty of criticism after that midweek home defeat, not least by Aberdeen boss Derek McInnes who said “he should probably be embarrassed by not finishing above Aberdeen”.
He hasn’t exactly endeared himself to the fans and press, but some of the criticism has been unfairly harsh, as he’s given plenty of young players an opportunity during his short tenure as he plans for next season.
Defender Bruno Alves, a Euro 2016 winner with Portugal, is reportedly on his way to Ibrox and other big-name summer signings could see the Gers finally give Celtic something to think about.
Successful season for Dons but Celtic still out of sight
Aberdeen, who lack the spending power of Celtic and Rangers, can regard their season as a success, but don’t be surprised to see them slip up away to Partick on Sunday.
Derek McInness will no doubt be keen to give key players a rest before next week’s Scottish Cup Final against Celtic. A missed penalty and some questionable refereeing decisions cost the Dons the chance of a place in the Europa League group stages, and they’ll be hoping for better luck this summer.
The promise of European football will always help them attract a better grade of player, but it’s still difficult to see them troubling Celtic next season, having lost all four league meetings to the champions this term (4-1, 1-0, 1-0, 3-1) as well as suffering a 3-0 home defeat in the League Cup.
Hibs on the up
Hibernian will re-join the Premiership fray after landing the Championship by 11 points under former Celtic manager Neil Lennon. Some excellent cup results suggest that a top-four finish is a realistic aim for 2017/2018 but, again, they still look a long way behind the current champions in terms of quality.
For more Scottish Premier League odds, take a look at Grosvenor Sport’s football betting.