SWPL 2020: Can Celtic or Rangers end Glasgow City's hegemony?

SWPL players at launch event
Can anyone stop Glasgow City winning a 14th consecutive title?
SWPL: Celtic v Glasgow City
Venue: K-Park Training Academy, East Kilbride Date: Friday, 21 February Kick-off: 19:30 GMT
Coverage: Watch live on BBC ALBA and on the BBC Sport website & app

A Glasgow arms race has set the stage for the attempted takedown of a football giant.

Glasgow City, after 13 years of consecutive titles and unrivalled success, now face their most serious challenge: keeping up with the financial might of Celtic and Rangers.

Major signings, coaching changes and, crucially, the move to full-time professional women's football could spell a shift in the Scottish game.

That's not to say Edinburgh's two big sides have been written off though - Hibernian have come second for five consecutive seasons and have won three Scottish Cups since 2016, while newly-promoted Hearts say they are committed to "investing significantly".

BBC Scotland takes a look at what is shaping up to be the most competitive and exciting Scottish Women's Premier League season ever.

Can the Old Firm's muscle wrestle away title?

Celtic and Rangers have moved the goalposts since last season by becoming the country's first full-time professional women's football teams and already there have been signs of how serious both teams are about mounting a title challenge.

Celtic's new head coach is Fran Alonso, who arrives with English Premier League experience as Ronald Koeman's assistant at Everton and Mauricio Pochettino's technical coach at Southampton.

They have also made major signings, including Anita Marcos from Atletico Madrid - a striker with Champions League experience - and midfielder Sarah Teegarden, who has represented the USA at youth levels.

Gregory Vignal's Rangers have gone on a similarly eye-catching recruitment drive. India captain and top scorer Bala Devi has signed, along with Venezuela international Sonia O'Neill from top-flight French side Fleury.

Celtic defender Jodie Bartle, who signed from English second-tier side Coventry United in January, believes the league will be "a lot more competitive" with the added investment.

"It's a really exciting time to come into the club," she said. "We're training five days a week now and we're progressing as individuals and as a team.

"I think it [Celtic and Rangers going pro] is going to make the league a lot more competitive. Our main goal is to show that we can use those investments well and end the season on a high."

What can Glasgow City do about it?

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Some could argue the shift of power in Glasgow was hinted at in the closing month of last season, when Celtic inflicted Glasgow City's first league defeat in three-and-a-half years - a resounding 4-1 victory.

In reality, it came days after a gruelling Champions League penalty shootout win over Brondby, and also after the title had already been wrapped up. Otherwise, City went undefeated the entire season, and they claimed back the Scottish Cup from Hibernian.

The issue City face is trying to keep their top talent. However, head coach Scott Booth is "very confident" of retaining his key players, which has in the past proved difficult.

"We're a feeder nation in the men's game and that's always been the case for City too," Booth said. "Every year I've been here we've lost one of our best players. The first club others will look to take players from is Glasgow City.

"We have to make sure we continue to do what we have been doing, to continue to be successful. We are a unique club - I think that can get lost sometimes. We're a club that champions girls and women only - we don't have a big brother and have never had that."

Without the backing of a men's club, Glasgow City have not only batted away opposition in Scotland, but also punched above their weight in continental competition.

Their win over Brondby in the Champions League has set up a last-eight tie against two-time winners and two-time runners-up Wolfsburg in the spring, as they aim to prolong what has so far been a superb European showing.

City are still very much the club to beat, but it won't take long to gauge how much closer their rivals have got - Celtic host the champions in the opening fixture of the season on Friday in a live BBC Alba game.

What about the rest?

Amid all the talk, it is easy to forget that City's nearest competitors in the past few years have been Hibernian.

Booth's side had to wrestle the cup from the Edinburgh outfit - who had won three years in a row until last season - in an enthralling final which finished 4-3.

Hibs, though, are depleted. The top flight's player of the year and Scotland international Jamie-Lee Napier has left for Chelsea after scoring 22 goals in 33 games from midfield, with Rangers' Carla Boyce the only outfield player added to the squad.

Edinburgh rivals Hearts, meanwhile, have signed two of Hibs' players - Siobhan Higgins and Clare Williamson, who was on loan at the Tynecastle club last season. They are among six signings, including Scotland under-19 international Ellis Dalgliesh and Ireland's Louise McDaniel, who represented her country during their 2019 World Cup qualifying campaign.

Hearts have made it clear that they have no intention to make up the numbers after earning promotion to the top tier, while Forfar Farmington, Motherwell and Spartans have all recruited heavily too.

Forfar are aiming to better a 2019 season in which they won just twice, while Motherwell are looking to kick on with over a dozen new signings, and Spartans are looking to improve on fifth place.

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