Triple threat: Christie predicts title challenges from improving sides
CELTIC midfielder Ryan Christie expects the Premier League to be significantly more than a two-horse race next term.
Speaking as the fixtures for 2016-17 were unveiled, the forward shrugged off the suggestion that it could be a league table of old next season, with the expectation being that Celtic and Rangers will muscle out any other challengers for the title.
And Christie has pointed to quiet threats from Aberdeen and Tynecastle – where Celtic open their defence of the title – as to where the other runners may come from.
Asked if he expected Rangers to challenge Celtic for the Championship, Christie said: “I don’t know. You look at Hearts – they did very well when they came up last season. It’s hard to compare with Rangers, who came up from the Championship, which they kind of cruised last season.
“But it’s not just us Rangers are going to have to deal with. It’s Aberdeen and Hearts as well.”
Rangers have added Joey Barton to the mix this summer, and he has proved to be good value for writers so far, but Christie has been reluctant to take any of his barbs too seriously.
“I hadn’t seen it [the comments] but I’ve been told,” he smiled. “I know for sure that it won’t faze Broony [Scott Brown]. I’m sure Joey is going to play it up a bit. I’m looking forward to playing against him. He’s not going to come up here and have an easy time because it’s not an easy league.”
Meanwhile, Christie is looking to impress new manager Brendan Rodgers when pre-season gets underway at Lennoxtown on Monday morning. The former Liverpool boss has already voiced his preference for a tight squad and although the Parkhead side have dispensed with Anthony Stokes and Carlton Cole, the current roster still numbers about 30.
“I’ll have to play it by ear but obviously my aim is to stay at Celtic,” he added. “It’s the manager’s choice. Most of them like a tight-knit squad, so we’ll have to wait and see.
“I think we go in with everybody on level par when it comes to impressing the new manager. Whoever impresses him the most will stick themselves in his thoughts and could be in the team throughout the season.”
BATTLE ROYALE: Ryan Christie says Rangers won’t be only challengers to Celtic’s crown.