COMMENT By Matt Farr
Football Insider gazes into its crystal ball and predicts the Celtic team for the opening day of the 2017-18 campaign.
The 2017-18 campaign could see Celtic looking to retain their titles on as many as three different fronts.
Under Brendan Rodgers this term, the club have already lifted the Scottish League cup title, while they already have one hand on the league title, having bombed ahead with a 27 point lead.
Meanwhile, their Scottish Cup campaign is their next point of call, where they seek victory to complete their much-desired domestic treble.
However, regardless of their domestic success, the long-term ambition for Rodgers is to challenge in Europe and the Champions League.
So far, Celtic have often fallen at the group-stage hurdle, but Rodgers wants to rectify that, and to do that, he will need to build a squad with such capabilities.
Therefore, we can likely see Rodgers splash the cash in the summer to bring in several new faces, where he will likely also part ways with several others.
Money will certainly be less of an object, with Celtic reportedly landing an incredible £19million windfall from their efforts in Europe earlier this season.
This could see no fewer than three fresh faces in Rodgers’ starting XI, when the 2017-18 campaign kicks-off after a summer of spending.
Henry Onyekuru, Jordan Rhodes and Glen Johnson could all be brought in to Parkhead, to add a mixture of youth and experience to his current setup.
Meanwhile, despite reports linking them with moves away from the club last month, Celtic are likely to retain the services of trio Craig Gordon, Kieran Tierney and Moussa Dembele for the new campaign.
Gordon emerged a surprise target for Chelsea in January, amid reports that Asmir Begovic was set to join Bournemouth. Therefore, Blues boss Antonio Conte had lined up the 34-year-old goalkeeper as backup to current No.1 Thibaut Courtois.
However, unless Gordon can be guaranteed a first-team role, he is unlikely to consider giving up his current life in Glasgow.
Tierney, meanwhile, is one of Scotland’s brightest upcoming talents, and should be retained at all costs. The Mirror claim Manchester United are coveting the young left-back, while the Express later reported interest from Sunderland.
There are likely to be changes to the defence, and that could see the experienced Johnson come in at right-back. Rodgers worked with the 32-year-old for several years at Liverpool, and with the current Stoke full-back out of contract at the end of the season, could be reunited with his former boss.
Although he may not be a long-term asset for the club, he will bring valuable experience of Europe and the international stage to the less-experienced faces.
Rodgers could also swoop for Liverpool’s Joe Gomez, following reports in the Express back in the summer. Gomez would have a valuable role to play in the first-team squad, but Celtic have stiff competition for places among the likes of Erik Sviatchenko and Mikael Lustig.
Efe Ambrose, Kolo Toure and Jozo Simunovic, meanwhile, may be among the players on their way out – though he won’t part with all three.
The midfield, meanwhile, will remain largely the same. The likes of fringe trio Nir Bitton, Kris Commons and Gary Mackay-Steven could be offloaded, but Scott Brown, Stuart Armstrong and Tom Rogic will all stay on board.
The central-midfield partnership between Brown and Armstrong has been particularly fruitful and Rodgers will hope it may long continue.
Within the next few weeks, Rodgers should also have January signing Kouassi Eboue at his disposal.
It seems likely that Patrick Roberts will be returning to Manchester City at the end of the season. Celtic may struggle to land him for another loan spell, or on a permanent deal, but there is no harm in trying. He has been fantastic for him.
However, regardless of whether Roberts stays or goes, Rodgers should look to add another winger to his ranks. That could see the club reignite their reported interested in young Nigerian forward Henry Onyekuru.
The 19-year-old has netted 12 goals and six assists for Belgian outfit KAS Eupen this season, and was believed to have been subject to a failed bid from Celtic last month.
Joining him in attack will likely be a fit-again Tom Rogic and goalscoring winger Scott Sinclair. Leading the line, will be Moussa Dembele.
However, Rodgers may also have someone like Jordan Rhodes at his disposal.
The 27-year-old striker sealed a loan move to Sheffield Wednesday in January after falling out-of-favour at Middlesbrough, and could once again be made available at the end of his loan spell.
He could be a handy addition to replace Leigh Griffiths, should Rodgers seek to move the Scotsman on this summer.
He is not likely, however, to be a replacement for Dembele, who Celtic can expect to remain at the club at least for the start of the next season.
In other Celtic transfer news, Erik Sviatchenko has ruled out a move to the Premier League.