THERE was no let-up for Celtic’s players after they had wrapped up the cinch Premiership last season with four games to spare.

Ange Postecoglou and his men remained under pressure to prevail in their final league matches even though they were, with nobody able to catch them in the top flight table, meaningless.

And the points which were dropped against Rangers, St Mirren and Hibernian ahead of the Scottish Cup final against Inverness Caledonian Thistle led to widespread concern among their legions of supporters.

Callum McGregor and his team mates found their form when it mattered most and completed a world record eighth domestic treble with a comfortable 3-1 victory at Hampden at the start of June.

Still, the build-up to that encounter underlined that there is rarely if ever any respite at Parkhead. 

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So the heat that will be on everyone at Celtic, the occupant of the dugout, the members of the first team squad and the residents of the boardroom, to step up and produce the goods next week is not likely to faze them in the slightest. It is the reality of life in the East End of Glasgow.

Losing the first match of the season against Rangers at Ibrox on Sunday week – and, with a raft of key players currently sidelined and none of their supporters cheering them on inside the stadium, that will be a difficult away outing for them and then some - will by no means be disastrous for manager Brendan Rodgers and his charges.

However, a victory will certainly give their new-look city rivals a massive injection of confidence and fuel the growing discontent among their own fanbase.  

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What happens off the park in the coming days, though, is of far greater importance to Celtic than what takes place on it in Govan.

They desperately need to strengthen significantly before the transfer window closes at midnight on Friday. Failure to do so could will mean the 2023/24 campaign will be a challenging one, possibly even a catastrophic one, for them at home and abroad.

The Scottish champions have made no fewer than six signings since Rodgers returned back in June; Odin Thiago Holm, Marco Tilio, Yang Hyun-jun, Kwon Hyeok-kyu, Maik Nawrocki and Gustaf Lagerbielke have been brought in at a cost of nearly £15m. Luis Palma looks set to be the next. 

Their summer recruits all look promising. In time, they may very well help their employers to both lift domestic silverware and excel on the continent. But they lack experience at the highest level. How much can really be asked or expected of them in the months ahead? Swedish centre half Lagerbielke is, at 23, the oldest of the new arrivals.

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The 1-0 defeat which Celtic suffered at the hands of Kilmarnock on the artificial pitch at Rugby Park in the Viaplay Cup last Sunday showed they are devoid of a vital physicality and a much-needed nous.

The prospect of this weakened team facing a leading club side from England, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands or Spain in the Champions League group stage next month is not a particularly appealing one for their fans at the present moment in time.

The departures of Jota and Carl Starfelt and the temporary losses of Cameron Carter-Vickers, Stephen Welsh, Nawrocki, Alistair Johnston, Reo Hatate and Oh Hyeon-gyu have left Celtic looking like a pale imitation of the team which swept all before them last term.

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Rodgers doesn’t have his troubles to seek injury wise. But should he not have had more at his disposal at this stage of the new season than is currently the case? Rangers manager Michael Beale made the majority of his big acquisitions weeks ago and has been able to work with them extensively on the training ground since.

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Bringing in project players has proved fruitful for Celtic in the past. Kristoffer Ajer, Moussa Dembele, Odsonne Edouard, Fraser Forster, Jeremie Frimpong, Jota and Virgil van Dijk, to name just a handful, were all excellent and banked them sizeable profits when they were sold. But they needed older players around them and years to develop and mature.

How is Lagerbielke going to cope with squaring up to Cyriel Dessers or Danilo in the Rangers game at Ibrox with a hostile 50,000-strong crowd hurling abuse in his direction? Will Holm be able to impose himself on proceedings with Nicolas Raskin, Ryan Jack or John Lundstram snapping at his heels whenever he gets on the ball?

A lot of business will be done in the closing days and hours of the window. Players who are out of favour at their clubs will be eager to exit either permanently or on loan. A switch to Parkhead holds a great deal of appeal on a number of levels. The chance to feature in the Champions League is certainly a huge attraction.

But Rodgers has been linked with the likes of Ryan Fraser, Scott McTominay and Daniel Podence during the close season and he has still not made any marquee signings. The Celtic hierarchy must spend big money on established international footballers next week or face the consequences.