Gordon Strachan's side looked down and out last season when a home defeat against Motherwell left rivals Rangers firmly in the driving seat.

The fans' scarves that hit the trackside at the final whistle revealed an underlying unhappiness within a section of the Celtic support for the former Aberdeen player.

However, seven straight wins saw the Hoops capture the title on the last day of the season with a win at Dundee United although a grudging respect was all the boss was afforded.

Strachan emulated the late, great Jock Stein in winning three titles in a row and the achievement of taking the club to the last 16 of the Champions League for the second season in succession was more than commendable.

Many thought the former Southampton and Coventry boss would call it a day but not for the first time he has confounded fans and pundits.

The close season has seen a bit of tinkering as opposed to wholesale changes but the champions still look the side to beat.

The twin-pronged strike force of Scott McDonald and Jan Vennegoor of Hesselink will be looking to build on the 51 goals they gathered last season.

Greece international Georgios Samaras, signed on a permanent deal from Manchester City after a four-month loan spell at Parkhead last season - will push both for a starting spot but may have to get used to appearance off the bench. Chris Killen - who will spend some time on Olympic Games business with New Zealand - will remain on the periphery.

The midfield battle looks more intriguing. Japanese icon Shunsuke Nakamura and Republic of Ireland wide man Aiden McGeady - who recently signed a new five-year deal with his boyhood heroes - will occupy the wide berths and provide the bulk of Celtic's flair and invention.

New signing Paddy McCourt from Derry City will do well to put either out the team, aside from the occasional league and CIS Insurance Cup game.

The two central midfield berths are more contentious. Paul Hartley and Barry Robson ended the season in possession, their drive and aggression powering the Hoops to the title.

The erratic Thomas Gravesen has returned from an unsuccessful loan spell at Everton and will be well down the pecking order.

More will be expected from Scott Brown, signed for £4million from Hibernian last summer while Massimo Donati still has it all to do to convince Celtic fans he has a future at Parkhead.

In defence, the controversial goalkeeper Artur Boruc offers a formidable last line while Stephen McManus and Gary Caldwell will start the season in possession of the central midfield positions. The full-back positions are up for grabs.

The Champions League will be as difficult as ever and the next level - a last-eight spot - will be asking a lot.

However, Strachan and the Celtic fans have every right to believe the fourth title is achievable with every chance of a domestic cup or two also arriving at Parkhead.