Why Celtic will be 'envious' of Rangers, according to former Parkhead defender

Ex-Celtic defender Michael Gray believes his former club will be spurred on by Rangers’ Europa League exploits last season after being “envious” of their rivals’ run to the final in Seville.

Ange Postecoglou’s side were eliminated from the Champions League qualifiers and then Europa League group stage before falling to Bodo/Glimt in the UEFA Conference League knock-out stages. However, there was success domestically as the league trophy returned to Parkhead.

Gray, a Martin O’Neill loan signing from Sunderland in 2003, believes his old side will be difficult to beat and will be looking to add to their Premiership success with improvements abroad – especially after witnessing the epic nights against RB Leipzig, Braga and Borussia Dortmund savoured across the city last season.

"I think European football is going to be key for Celtic this season and it just begs the question as how serious they’re going to take European football this time around.

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"Domestic football is key for them obviously. European football is absolutely key.

"They were probably envious of what Rangers achieved last season."

Speaking to bookmakers Betfred, Gray added: “Celtic were excellent in the league last season. They’ll be disappointed with their European run but you’re probably looking at those two sides again finishing first and second.

"But I think at Celtic – what is that, ten [titles] in the last 11? – it’s going to be really difficult to take them off their perch.

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England international Michael Gray joined Celtic for the first half of the 2003/04 season under Martin O'Neill and believes his old side will be difficult to beat this term. (Picture: SNS)

“I look at Rangers and think certain players like Calvin Bassey and Joe Aribo were real stalwarts last season. They have to sell players just to keep going, which is really bizarre when you think how big a football club it is. But I think [Giovanni] van Bronckhorst coming in and the European run that they went on was absolutely phenomenal.

"They’ve got a good side and real talented players and I think they’re going to push Celtic all the way this season.”

The first derby falls on September 6 and Gray insists the games between the pair will be pivotal in the title’s destination.

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“The Old Firm games are absolutely huge. They’re games you want to be part of. Who comes out on top in those four games you’re probably thinking at the end of the season is going to finish top of the table.”

Gray believes Rangers' European exploits last season would have prompted envy across the city. (Photo by Craig Williamson / SNS Group)

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The defender reckons his old side will be difficult to knock off the top. (Photo by Craig Foy / SNS Group)
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