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SPFL: Celtic Drops The Gauntlet, But Will Anyone Pick It Up?

ST PETERSBURG, RUSSIA FEBRUARY 22, 2018: Celtic's fans rooting for their team in Leg 2 of their 2017/18 UEFA Europa League Round of 32 football match against FC Zenit St Petersburg at Saint Petersburg Stadium. FC Zenit St Petersburg won the game 3-0. Alexander Demianchuk/TASS (Photo by Alexander Demianchuk\TASS via Getty Images)
SPFL: Celtic Drops The Gauntlet, But Will Anyone Pick It Up?

The masters of the Scottish Premiership and Scottish club football, Brendan Rogers’s Celtic Football Club, continue their march towards a successful domestic treble defense. With a match every few days, the Bhoys are asking the question to the rest of Scotland: are you going to challenge us or not?

It’s an important question, given the separation that Celtic have in the league. They are ahead by nine points over Old Firm rivals Rangers FC, managed by Graeme Murty, after a 2-0 win over Derek McInnes’s Aberdeen at Pittodrie Stadium that saw both sides play down to 10 men by the final whistle. Celtic are 19-7-2 (64 points) through 28 of 33 matches in the first phase of the competiton. Scott Sinclair leads a balanced scoring attach with nine goals while Leigh Griffiths has eight. Moussa Dembele and Kieran Tierney each have six assists.

In addition, Celtic face Greenock Morton this weekend in the Scottish Cup quarterfinals on Mar. 3. Aberdeen and Rangers are also alive in their quarterfinals. The Dons take on Kilmarnock at home on Mar. 3 while the Gers face Falkirk at Ibrox Stadium on Mar. 4. But the question still remains, even though Celtic, like PSG historically, have proven to be a bust in Europe (they were slaughtered by Russian powerhouse Zenit St. Petersburg in UEFA Europa League action), can the Bhoys be silenced domestically?

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“It was a fantastic win for us,” Rodgers said after the match. “We’re on an even playing field now with most of the other teams, 10 games to go. Some teams around us have been on holiday for a year with virtually one game a week. We’ve dealt with everything up until this point now. With 10 games to go we can really focus and concentrate domestically on what has been a really great season so far.”

“When does this title race start?” asked a reader of the Scottish Daily Record and a Celtic supporter in a letter to the newspaper’s editor. “I keep hearing about one, but when is anyone going to actually push us? It won’t be Aberdeen and it won’t be Rangers.”

The next team down would be Hibernian of Edinburgh, who are out of the Scottish Cup. They are on 48 points, 16 off Celtic’s pace. If Celtic maintain their winning form, their domestic treble defense will be a straightforward one by the end of the season. Celtic’s next league contest is on Feb. 28 against Dundee at Celtic Park (kickoff: 11:45 a.m. PT/2:45 p.m. ET). Dundee currently sit in ninth at 28 points (8-4-16), four above the Premiership playoff position currently held by Partick Thistle.

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Jo-Ryan Salazar is a writer for The Stoppage Time, a soccer blog powered by Azteca Soccer. A supporter of the Los Angeles Galaxy since 1996 and a committed supporter since 2002, Jo-Ryan also follows Chelsea FC, Melbourne Victory, FC Tokyo and Paris Saint-Germain. Apart from soccer, Jo-Ryan is an administrative assistant for a local nonprofit in Long Beach, California and also does photography, photo-editing and fictional writing.

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