EIGHT teams, four ties, one step away from Hampden.
It’s Quarter Final week in this seasons Betfred League Cup and there are some tasty matches in store as each side vies for a place in the Semi Finals at the National Stadium.
BT Sport are covering three of the matches across each night from tomorrow to Thursday to bring you the drama of the League Cup, which seems to be winning back some form of value given the reintroduction of the group stages and the earlier tournament conclusion of late November as opposed to mid-March.
Here’s a preview to the Quarter Final ties.
Hibernian v Livingston
On paper, this should be a routine home victory for the top flight side against the only Championship team left in the tournament. However, football is not played on paper.
Since beating Rangers at Ibrox, Hibs form has been ropey, where they’ve been convincingly beaten by Hamilton at home and followed that up with three consecutive draws. The most recent of which came on Saturday having blown a two goal lead against Motherwell at Easter Road, prompting manager Neil Lennon to launch a scathing attack on his players in his post match interview.
Livingston, on the other hand, have been settling into life back in the Championship quite well, sitting sixth in the table and coming off the back of an away win over relegated Inverness Caledonian Thistle. David Hopkin’s side will relish their underdogs tag and won’t be phased at making the short trip to the capital.
Much of this game depends on which Hibs side turns up. If the likes of Anthony Stokes, Simon Murray and John McGinn are on form, there is only one winner. However, with Efe Ambrose and co liable to switch off at any given moment, there is always the possibility that the hosts could be on the end of another “Hibsed It” headline on Wednesday morning.
Partick Thistle v Rangers
As is the theme of Cup competitions, there’s always at least one tie that comes either side of a League match between the two sides. This is the first of two ties in this round to have such a fate as the two Glasgow sides face up just four days after a thrilling 2-2 draw at the same stadium.
Partick have shown continuous improvement under Alan Archibald since their top flight return in 2013, culminating in a top six finish last season. However, they haven’t beaten the men from Ibrox since 1993 and blew two golden opportunities to end that hoodoo last season, twice being 1-0 up with ten minutes to go at home and twice losing 2-1 to a last minute winner. Fridays showing, where they were leading until Chris Erskine’s deserved red card, has given them more belief that they can finally end that barren run sooner rather than later.
For Rangers, this is a key week in their season to back up their managers words that they have the best squad in Scotland. They seem to have found a gem up front in Alfredo Morelos, the Colombian hitting seven goals in his last five games, but have been suspect defensively, despite the signing of Euro 2016 winner Bruno Alves, and that’s cost them seven points so far in the Premiership table. With the first Old Firm Derby of the season looming this weekend, it’s vital that Rangers overcome this tricky and get through to the Semi Finals, otherwise the pressure on Pedro Caixinha will be cranked up big time.
Dundee v Celtic
Fifty five domestic games undefeated and treble holders. That’s the challenge facing Dundee this week as they entertain a Celtic side looking to extend their domestic invincibility that’s lasted since May 2016.
A week ago, Dundee would’ve been completely written off having not won any of their first five League matches. However, Saturday’s win over St Johnstone has given them that much needed shot in the arm ahead of the visit of the Champions and a bumper home crowd could be the inspiration they need to cause, what would be, the shock of the round.
Celtic, on the other hand, have shown few signs of letting up their incredible run though they did have that scare against St Johnstone a few weeks ago before getting away with a 1-1 draw. With Moussa Dembele back, Celtic have a tough decision up front between him and on form Leigh Griffiths along with the other huge selection choices they have in the midfield areas, summarising the quality they have at their disposal.
Dundee will be counting on a great performance and Celtic having a rare off night if they are to have any chance of getting into the Semi Finals.
Motherwell v Aberdeen
A repeat of the 2013/14 Quarter Final, won by the visitors on route to lifting the trophy, and another tie that coincides with a League encounter, which takes place at the same venue on Sunday, also live on BT Sport.
After losing the opening two games, Motherwell come into the tie in great form having won three and drawn one of the last four matches, the draw coming on a Saturday at Hibs having been 2-0 down. Manager Steve Robinson is winning over the Well fans as his new squad settles into life at Fir Park, aided by the goals of Louis Moult having successfully held onto him following bids from the Dons.
Despite being second in the table, Aberdeen haven’t been convincing so far this season and have drawn their last two games. Derek McInnes doesn’t quite know his best eleven from his much changed squad, including eight new arrivals, as he seeks to find the correct formula. However, it bodes well for his side that they’ve started the season undefeated despite these issues and it was at Fir Park at Christmas where the Dons season properly got going, so they’ll be hoping history repeats itself this Thursday as last seasons treble runners up take another step back to Hampden.
The fact that last seasons top three have all been drawn away from home, coupled with Hibs erratic start to the season, makes these four ties very intriguing and has the prospect of some very good games as the eight sides seek their place in the Semi Final.
Cup glory could boost each sides season for various reasons so, although there is no carat of European Football, there is a big incentive for each side to crave Betfred Cup glory. The fact there is only one non-Premiership side in the Quarter Finals tells you everything you need to know about how seriously each team is taking the competition.
Remember, keep discussing the key points of the Betfred Cup Quarter Finals by logging onto www.scottishfootballforums.co.uk, and to get the best odds go to www.mcbookie.com and put your money where your mouth is on who you believe will reach the Semi Finals.