SCOTTISH Football’s main showpiece occasion is just three days away when the best two sides in the country this season, Aberdeen and Celtic, take to the Hampden turf on Saturday in the Scottish Cup Final.
This will be the seventh time the two sides have met in the Final, Celtic winning the first three in 1937, 1954 and 1967, and Aberdeen winning the last three in 1970, 1984 and 1990.
Unsurprisingly, the National Stadium is sold out to a 50:50 allocation as both sets of fans travel in hope of a triumphant climax to their season and to see their side lift the oldest trophy in World Football.
This weekends Final has an added ingredient to it in that Celtic are one match away from completing the treble and an entire domestic season undefeated, fully rubber stamping their Invincible’s tag. It would complete a remarkable first season under Brendan Rodgers in the week of the 50th anniversary of the clubs European Cup victory, when they also won their first of three trebles achieved in their history.
Aberdeen, on the other hand, have their own incentive to stop Celtic’s 46 unbeaten run for the season. They haven’t won the Cup since that 1990 triumph and this is their first Final in 17 years, so they are desperate to do what Hibs did last season (albeit Hibs wait was significantly longer) and get the monkey off their back by bringing the Cup back to the Granite City.
The big question is – can Celtic be stopped?
Evidence is heavily weighted in their favour, even discounting their vastly superior squad compared to the rest of the country, and they’ve won all five matches against the Dons this season. That included the League Cup Final six months ago, when the Bhoys strolled to a 3-0 win against an Aberdeen side who simply froze on the day.
The Celtic side is also showing no signs of letting up. Even after they clinched their sixth consecutive title with eight games to go, they never took their foot off the gas as they swept to Invincibility in the League and kept their momentum going with the Final their sights. It really is hard to see them being stopped now.
However, stranger things have happened in football and Aberdeen will believe that they can upset the odds. They have a very capable squad with match winners like Hayes, McGinn and Rooney and will take heart from the fact that they dominated the last League meeting with Celtic at Pittodrie, although they were 3-0 down after 11 minutes! If they can ensure their defence is switched on from the off this time, then they have a chance.
Celtic going for the treble against Aberdeen in a Scottish Cup Final is nothing new, in fact this will be the third occasion where they seek to complete a domestic clean sweep against the Dons. They achieved that feat in 1967 with a 2-0 victory, before going onto their European Cup triumph, but Aberdeen upset the apple cart in 1970 with a 3-1 win, before Celtic then lost the European Cup Final to Feyenoord. The only difference between those occasions and now is that there is no European Final for Celtic to follow, though that would’ve been an extraordinary achievement given how much football has changed in these 47 years!
This is also the first season that the same two sides have competed in both Cup Finals since 1992/93, when, coincidentally, Aberdeen were on the receiving end of two defeats by Rangers and finished runners-up to the same side in the League. They’ll be hoping that history doesn’t repeat itself to the other half of the Old Firm this time around!
If the Dons are to stop a Celtic treble, they’re going to have to learn the harsh lessons of the League Cup Final, where they simply didn’t turn up and sent their fans away angry that their team didn’t perform anywhere near their capabilities, and need their defence to be completely switched on, something they weren’t in the opening ten minutes of the Pittodrie game nearly two weeks ago. To put it simply, this has to be Aberdeen’s best performance of the season if they are to stop this invincible Celtic machine.
The scene is set and Hampden should be a great spectacle, with Red and White on one side and Green and White on the other making a colourful setting for the big occasion.
With the awful events in Manchester dominating the headlines this week, it puts things into perspective and, whilst the Cup Final is important to both sets of fans, supporters of Aberdeen and Celtic should realise that it is only a game and to enjoy the occasion as best as they can. In other words, let football be the only thing people talk about in this years Scottish Cup Final.
So will Celtic complete an incredible season with the treble and domestic invincibility? Or will Aberdeen finally bring home a trophy missing from Pittodrie for nearly three decades?
Whatever the outcome, let’s hope the neutrals are talking about a great Cup Final. Although, as a Don, I respectfully couldn’t give a monkeys how good or bad the game is, as long as we win the Scottish Cup!