WHEN the international break concludes the Scottish Premiership enters a key stage of the campaign in the run up to Christmas.

Rangers currently sit top of the table with Celtic lingering in sixth position with eight games played.

Only six points seperate the pair though and standings can quickly change with upsets never far away from the Scottish game.

Looking back on the opening matches of the season, our writers have examined how Celtic have fared under the leadership of Ange Postecoglou and here they give a prediction on whether the Hoops can bring the title back to Parkhead.

Aidan Smith - The return of Jullien could be key 

Celtic have shown their quality in stages this season, but their defence is still where the real problem lies. Going forward they have looked sharp and the signing of Kyogo Furuhashi has been a refreshing addition to their attacking line of recent years. I still think the title would be a step too far for Ange Postecoglou and his Parkhead players this term, but as long as there are signs of progress the Hoops support and board must continue to be loyal to the Aussie. 

Given another transfer window I believe Postecoglou could start to bed more talent into his squad to become an even bigger challenge to their neighbours across the city. Injury problems have also affected Celtic this season, so if they can get a bit of luck on that front and continue to field a consistent team, there will definitely be signs of improvement. Carl Starfelt hasn’t overly impressed me since his arrival from Rubin Kazan and I think the return of Christopher Jullien could be huge for Postecoglou. It remains to be seen when he will be fit enough to return as a regular starter, but Postecoglou has confirmed that Jullien will return to first team training after the international break.

James Cairney - Celtic will likely finish as the form team

I believe that it’s still far too early to be crowning anyone champions or writing anyone off, but the fact remains that Celtic need to improve significantly – and quickly – if they’re to be considered serious title contenders. They are only six points behind Rangers at present but as we saw last season, an early-season gap between the two rivals can prove near-impossible to overhaul if you allow one to open up. 

You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to pinpoint where it’s gone wrong this season: the defending has bordered on kamikaze lately. Ange Postecoglou appears to have prioritised getting his forward line clicking – an unusual move, as managers tend to begin by solidifying the defence – and while the attacking play has been breathless at times, it’s impossible to overlook this vulnerability. 

It will improve given time. The emphasis Postecoglou places on the collective, both in defensive and attacking phases of play, means that the players require time to get used to the system. Such a style of play can’t just be introduced overnight and with the wave of a wand. 

I have no doubt that Celtic will improve as the campaign wears on, and it would be little surprise to me if they finish the season as the Premiership’s form team, if not quite champions. They have a strong squad and a talented manager. The question, though, is whether they will still be in the title race by the time they inevitably click into gear. Rangers will undoubtedly improve too – for now, Celtic must simply keep pace.

Ewan Paton - Additional permanent signings are required

As impressed as I have been with Ange Postecoglou’s turnaround in terms of implementing his style of play, Celtic’s defensive issues personnel-wise remain a fatal flaw in their gameplan. Last season under Neil Lennon, the Hoops were laborious and laboured. From what we’ve seen under Ange in his first six months, they are anything but that now – certainly in an attacking sense. Kyogo, Liel Abada and Jota look to be three killer signings for Celtic and have helped to bring a different forward thinking and direct dynamic. Add in the quality of James Forrest, Tom Rogic and David Turnbull, as well as skipper Callum McGregor, and the Hoops will continue to simply outscore many domestic teams.

However, nothing ever clicks in to place right away. The inverted full-backs system has been exploited by a few teams already – Bayer Leverkusen most namely. The jury is still out on Carl Starfelt, but he could improve with time. The other defenders currently playing are solid enough, but certainly unspectacular. Additional permanent signings in the left-back and centre-back areas are required. Ange should be allowed at least another two windows to secure these recruits. Only then, once the defence is more balanced, will Celtic have the perfect side to fulfil Ange’s style and become title winners.