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Aberdeen are Celtic's biggest rivals says Scott Brown

Celtic's Scott Brown and Barcelona's Luis Suarez battle for the ball during Saturday's International Champions Cup match at the Aviva Stadium, Dublin
Picture by PA 
Gavin McCafferty

CELTIC captain Scott Brown claims Aberdeen will be the biggest threat to their title defence this season.

The Hoops are going for their sixth consecutive title and have a new challenge in the form of a rejuvenated Rangers following their four-year journey through the lower leagues. But Brown cited the Dons and Hearts as the ones to watch out for ahead of his side's opening Ladbrokes Premiership game at Tynecastle on Sunday.

When asked to pick one team who would be Celtic's biggest challengers, Brown said: "I think Aberdeen after the last couple of seasons. They have been exciting to watch, they have come to Celtic Park and got points and we have struggled up there. So hopefully we can do a little bit better this season."

When asked how he thought Rangers would fare, the midfielder said: "We'll see that when it comes, that's the fifth game of the season, so we have got a few before that and, as I said, Aberdeen have been great the last couple of years and so have Hearts after coming back up last season."

On that September 10 derby at Celtic Park, Brown added: "It will be good. It's always good, a Rangers-Celtic game, especially with the atmosphere. But there's lots of huge games coming up for us and that's way down the line."

The immediate priority is the second leg of the Champions League third qualifying round on Wednesday. A late goal from Leigh Griffiths saw Celtic return from Kazakhstan last week with a 1-1 draw against Astana: "We went over there and got the away goal," Brown said.

"That's always going to help us. We played well on the day and maybe could have sneaked another one. But it's going to be a great atmosphere back at Celtic Park and we're looking forward to the game."

Celtic and Barcelona found the net within a minute of each other at the Aviva Stadium on Saturday  

Brown believes Celtic's early European exertions will give his team an edge as they begin their league campaign: "Last season was a little bit disappointing overall, but we still got the job done," he added.

"This season, we have started off well in the Champions League qualifiers and, hopefully, we will push that into the league. This is always the priority. It's huge for us to try to get six in-a-row. We fought well last season and deserved it after a long hard season."

Meanwhile, Celtic have been drawn to play at home against Premiership rivals Motherwell in the second round of the Betfred League Cup. Rangers were also drawn at home as they face Peterhead, while Aberdeen will travel to Ayr United, Hearts take on St Johnstone at McDiarmid Park and Hibernian will play Queen of the South at Easter Road.

The four teams all involved in European football - Celtic, Aberdeen, Hearts and Hibernian - plus group winners Rangers, Partick, Alloa and Morton are all seeded, while the other four group winners and four best runners-up from the group stages made up the rest of the draw.

The second round ties are to be played on August 9, 10 and 11.

 

LEAGUE CUP DRAW
Rangers v Peterhead, Dundee Utd v Partick Thistle, Celtic v Motherwell, Hamilton v Morton, Hibernian v Queen of the South, St Johnstone v Hearts, Alloa v Inverness, Ayr Utd v Aberdeen

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