As the new Scottish Premiership season approaches, former Celtic star Jackie McNamara has predicted that the Hoops will secure their fourth consecutive league title.

However, the Parkhead legend believes it's crucial for other clubs to mount a stronger challenge to the reigning champions and their rivals, Rangers - citing both Hibernian and Heart of Midlothian as potential wildcards.

"I think Celtic will retain the title because I think they've got the best squad and a top manager that's been through it," the ex-defender told BBC's Scottish Football Podcast.

"The core of the players there have experienced it, they know how to win and get over the line.

"I think there will be a couple of dark horses this year in terms of pushing, which I hope there is because I think it would be good for the game.

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"I'd like to see Hibs do a lot better, they should be a top six team. David Gray has been given the chance permanently this time which I think they had to do. He's been interim quite a few times and did well.

"At Hearts, I've been really impressed with how Naismith goes about his business and tries to play. He gives young ones a chance as well and they've strengthened. I think it's going to be a good season but it's hard to see past Celtic."

Elaborating more on how he believes Celtic's 2024/25 season will go, McNamara claimed he would sacrifice winning another domestic Treble if it meant a better performance in the Champions League.

UEFA's premier competition has undergone a huge revamp and will Celtic's participation among the new league phase will begin in September.

"Yeah, 100 percent," McNamara stated. "I think we get used to Trebles over the years. To crack Europe, that's the only time they'll get real credit for doing very well.

"I think for Brendan as well, his European record hasn't been great, it'd be good for him to go and make his mark in that and take the club to the next level. I think that's when he'd get real recognition for what he's done."