Owen Coyle expects Celtic to stride clear at the top of the SPL when their Champions League group campaign ends.
Neil Lennon's team have dropped points after five of their 10 European games this season and will be involved in Europe after Christmas.
They will qualify for the last 16 against Spartak Moscow on Tuesday if they better Benfica's result against Barcelona, and Coyle feels they will consolidate their position as SPL leaders when the European campaign breaks.
Former Bolton manager Coyle, who rejected the chance to manage Celtic in 2009, said: "It's looking very competitive. You have to balance that and recognise the distraction Celtic have in the Champions League.
"I would expect once the Spartak game is taken care of, for those couple of months before it comes around again, we will see Celtic opening a gap up in the league. I think we all accept Celtic will win the league, but there are now six, seven or eight teams that feel they can finish second."