RANGERS hero Mark Hateley expects his former club to retain the Scottish Premiership title this season, but reckons the title race will be closer than last year.
The Ibrox icon has predicted back-to-back league success for Rangers and was even more convinced after watching their ‘second team’ defeat Celtic in the season’s first Old Firm match.
Rangers were without a number of key players for the fixture due to them self-isolating because of positive tests at the club. James Tavernier, Calvin Bassey, Allan McGregor, Jon McLaughlin, Scott Wright and Nathan Patterson all missed the match.
Now, Hateley, who thinks the Rangers squad is at the same level if not better than last season is expecting another title and the bonus of Champions League group stage qualification with it.
“I’m expecting a closer title race than last season, but I still see Rangers finishing on top,” Hateley told BETDAQ.
“That quality is still there from last year where they finished unbeaten. I know they’ve already been beaten this season, but you reset and you go again. The squad is the same level if not stronger than last season and as Steven Gerrard says, they’re just waiting for that trigger to kick on again this season, to play the way they did last year.
“I think the European games sparked that form for Rangers last year and I’m hoping they are going to do the same again for the club this season, as it’s a massive year with that automatic Champions League qualifying spot available for the title winners.
“This is a vital year for Rangers this season as winning the league gets you right into the Champions League and access to that pot of money that goes straight into your bank account. And we know what that sort of money can do for raising the talent level of the Rangers squad. It can go a long, long way to boosting the squad so it’s hugely important.
“Rangers will take that Celtic result forwards, it’s always good to be the victors of the first Old Firm game of the season. It sends out a signal. It sends a message out to all the contenders that are looking to win the league. And it sends a huge message as it wasn’t Rangers’ first-choice side that played against Celtic. It sends out that message and puts the team in a good frame of mind and a good spot for the rest of the season.”
Hateley added: “It was more like a second XI that beat Celtic. You’re looking at a third-choice right-back, a third-choice goalkeeper… There were players out injured and with Covid that would have started on the day, but Rangers have still gone out there and put on a performance. Celtic had a lot of possession but never really troubled Rangers.”