THIS weekend sees the penultimate stage of Scotland’s most prestigious knockout competition as the Semi Finals of the 2016/17 Scottish Cup take place at Hampden.
Fans of Hibernian, Aberdeen, Celtic and Rangers descend on the National Stadium, hoping their club can take the next step to lifting the oldest trophy in British Football (it should be pointed out that the FA Cup is the oldest competition but the original trophy was melted, therefore the Scottish Cup is the oldest trophy).
With the Hibees and Dons facing up to each other on Saturday, and the Old Firm affair taking place 24 hours later, it’s guaranteed that it’ll be an East v West clash in the showpiece event at the end of May.
But who will it be?
Hibs v Aberdeen throws up all sorts of omens pointing their side to the final.
For holders Hibs, yes HOLDERS Hibs (the first time that’s been said in 114 years), they are participating in their fifth Semi Final in six seasons, reaching three Finals along the way, so their recent Cup record is impressive. Adding to that, they’ve won the last three Scottish Cup meetings between the two sides stretching back to 2007, plus a League Cup tie last season, and they’ll be confident going into Saturday’s match, particularly having ended their hoodoo last season and on the back of clinching a return to the Premiership last weekend.
Aberdeen, on the other hand, are seeking to end two barren runs of their own, a 27 year wait since they last won the Cup and a 17 year spell since their last Final in the famous old competition. However, the last two occasions they reached the Final (in 1993 and 2000), they defeated Hibs along the way and they will be eager to get to another big Hampden occasion having reached the League Cup Final in November, though their performance against Celtic that day was forgettable.
Despite being in different Leagues, there isn’t much to call between the two sides with plenty of match winners such as Jason Cummings, John McGinn and Andrew Shinnie of a Hibs against Johnny Hayes, Niall McGinn and Adam Rooney of the Dons. In the dugout, both Neil Lennon and Derek McInnes have done excellent jobs for their respective sides and this match has the prospects of being a tight affair.
The next day sees the fifth meeting of the Old Firm and that’s enough incentive for either side to be motivated in itself. However, both sides have an extra incentive to take that step closer to lifting the Cup.
For Celtic, they have their eyes firmly on the treble having comfortably taken the League Cup and Premiership title without breaking sweat, or indeed losing a game in any of their 40 domestic matches this season. Brendan Rodgers is seeking to do what only two other Celtic managers have ever achieved by clinching a domestic clean sweep, which would elevate him to legendary status after just one season, and they’ll be confident of brushing aside their greatest rivals along the way.
Meanwhile the Ibrox men are looking to salvage some pride that has taken a battering at times throughout the season, emphasised by the mammoth 33 point deficit behind Celtic in the Premiership table, leading to the PR shambles that was the removal of Mark Warburton. Pedro Caixinha is the latest man in the hot seat and he can become an instant Rangers hero by ending the Hoops treble dreams. Their confidence will be high having taken an unlikely point at Parkhead in the last Old Firm match and beating Aberdeen at Pittodrie in their unbeaten start to Caixinha’s reign.
It promises to be two intriguing Semi Finals between four of Scotland’s biggest clubs that will generate a lot of media interest, which can only be good for the game up here. Lets hope that we’re talking about two cracking games and not any hint of trouble between any sets of supporters, something that ruined last seasons epic on the field battle between Rangers and Hibs in the Final.
Who will be in the Final is anyone’s guess. What is certain is that whatever combination of Hibernian/Aberdeen v Celtic/Rangers will be an intriguing prospect for Scottish Football’s showpiece occasion on 27 May 2017.