Celtic: Can Brendan Rodgers' side win third consecutive treble?

Celtic
Celtic won their seventh consecutive Premiership title last season

To win six consecutive trophies is remarkable. To win nine would be astonishing.

Never before has a Scottish club claimed a 'treble treble' but that is the challenge facing Celtic after Brendan Rodgers claimed the Scottish Premiership, Scottish Cup and the League Cup for a second consecutive season last term.

With Livingston visiting Celtic Park for the campaign's opening game on Saturday, Celtic supporters are already anticipating the eighth step on what they hope is a march to the holy grail of 10 titles in a row.

But before they reach that landmark, could they sweep the board again this season?

Read what former Celtic striker and BBC Scotland pundit Scott McDonald thinks and pick your own Celtic XI for this term.

Are Celtic's toughest opponents themselves?

I think they'll come again stronger this season. I expect a strong Celtic like that first season under Rodgers.

It was almost inevitable that Celtic's form would dip slightly after the 'Invincibles' season, when they won all three domestic prizes without suffering a single defeat.

Having drawn just four matches and lost none in 2016-17, the Parkhead side dropped points in 14 matches last season as their margin of victory in the Premiership dropped from 30 points to nine.

But the numbers only tell part of the story. Rarely, if at all, did Rodgers' side appear to be in the midst of a genuine race for the title. Invariably, when Celtic needed a result to keep the pretenders at arm's length, they delivered.

They won three of their four league meetings with runners-up Aberdeen, with their only defeat to the Dons coming on the final day with the title long since wrapped up.

"To say they dipped in the second season, is unbelievable," adds McDonald. "Expectations were high but they were clearly comfortable winning the title and still managed to do the treble so it was some struggle..."

"I backed them to do the double treble, and it's certainly a possibility they can do the treble treble.

"In one-off games in cup competitions, I could see an upset somewhere along the line but I'd certainly say Celtic for the title all day long."

What about Rodgers v Gerrard?

Steven Gerrard taking the helm at Rangers is a statement that they want to compete and I think the Celtic players and management will step up to that challenge.

Rangers' appointment of Gerrard has added an intriguing new dimension to this season.

The coach and captain who experienced thrilling highs and crushing lows together at Liverpool are now in opposite camps in one of football's most unforgiving environments.

"I think it will get the juices flowing," adds McDonald, who won the league title with Celtic in 2008.

"Brendan has still got a lot to achieve at this football club - he's said that himself. I wouldn't put it past him to want nine and 10 in a row.

"He is here for the long term and will want to put one over his old captain. When it comes to those Old Firm games we might have a right ding-dong on."

Scott McDonald quote: "When it comes to those Old Firm games we might have a right ding-dong."

What else might be different?

Celtic are going to be hugely strong and I think they're going to change shape this year and play two up front as well, which will excite the fans.

Rangers may well push Celtic harder, but it is Aberdeen who have been Celtic's closest challengers for the past four seasons.

Throw in Hibernian and Kilmarnock - who each managed a win and two draws against the champions last season - and a Hearts side looking stronger after a summer revamp, and there are plenty of teams who will believe they can at least have a say in the race at the top this time around.

Rodgers admitted he would have wanted to add more signings by this stage of the summer, with striker Odsonne Edouard and goalkeeper Scott Bain the only arrivals so far after turning their loan spells into permanent deals.

But even if no new faces arrive between now and the close of the transfer window on 31 August, Celtic's squad is still far stronger than any other in Scotland.

"The way that Brendan has worked with his players, they've just gone from strength to strength," McDonald says. "They know each other inside and out.

"If he can add to it with quality rather than quantity, I think he will, especially at the back.

"Rodgers would probably like to have strengthened a bit more than what he has done to make the treble treble a possibility, but you wouldn't put it past them."

Pick your preferred Celtic XI

My Celtic XI

Celtic can seal a treble treble with victory over Hearts in Saturday's Scottish Cup final, but whom should Neil Lennon select, and in what shape?

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