Celtic captain Callum McGregor is relishing the pressure of keeping the Scottish champions at the top of the pile.
McGregor will lead his team out for their cinch Premiership opener against Ross County on Saturday looking to begin the process of adding to his 20 major honours.
Celtic face the challenge of a Rangers side who have added nine players, while Aberdeen, Hearts and Hibernian have also been spending money.
And McGregor is excited about the chance to meet the renewed competition head on.
Flag Day at Paradise…
Our title defence begins on Saturday
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— Celtic Football Club (@CelticFC) August 3, 2023
“If you are in elite sport, you have to enjoy the pressure,” the 30-year-old said. “There is always a challenge. There’s challenges within the building, new players coming in trying to push the players who are playing. You get a real competitive edge within the squad.
“And then of course when you come together as a squad you have 11 other teams who are trying to beat you. That’s the pressure you want as a football player. You want to stay at the front. You understand how hard that challenge is but it’s something that you relish.”
Celtic won their fifth treble in seven seasons last term but McGregor knows that can quickly become irrelevant.
“I have been lucky enough to have that feeling a fair few times in my career but when you start a new season, you start afresh,” he said. “It doesn’t count for anything.
“Everyone is now looking at: ‘Can you win it again, can you do this, can you do that?’ You have to find the answers and if you play at a top club like this then you have to take that challenge on.
“You embrace it, you embrace it with your mates, the manager, everyone together, supporters. What is better than that challenge, to continue to push and improve every year?
“We have to. It’s simple. We had a tremendous season but we have to park that. It’s a new manager, some new players, and a fresh test of mentality, quality, finding a way to win. All of these things.”
Manager Brendan Rodgers returns to competitive action for Celtic against a familiar face in former Hoops defender Malky Mackay.
The Ross County manager worked under Rodgers at Watford before succeeding him as Hornets boss. The pair then managed Swansea and Cardiff at the same time before Mackay’s acrimonious departure from the Bluebirds set back his managerial career.
Rodgers said: “I am really looking forward to seeing Malky. Malky is a good man.
“I have to say Ross County are very, very fortunate to have someone of that calibre as a manager.
“He has had a real challenging decade, Malky, but what I know from working with him is what a first-class manager he is, and a coach and person.
“He has done a great job at Ross County with, I am sure, limited resources. He had a great finish a couple of seasons ago and obviously fought to stay in the league last season.
“But what I know about Malky’s teams, they always make it really, really difficult. He’s a top-class manager that Ross County are very fortunate to have.”
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