SIXTEEN teams take to the stage this weekend looking to earn a place in the Quarter Finals of the Scottish Cup.
Nine Premiership sides, four Championship teams and one representative from League One take up fourteen of the slots in this weekends ties, with the rarity of TWO non-League teams extending their unlikely Road to Hampden.
Highland League duo Cove Rangers and Brora Rangers began their Scottish Cup journey back in September in the first round, seeing off four sides en route to their respective Fifth Round ties, as many as a Premiership side needs to reach the Final!
Cove, current leaders of the Highland League, will fancy their chances of an upset at home to Championship strugglers Falkirk. Despite a recent improvement, Paul Hartley’s men were brought back down to earth with a convincing home defeat by Livingston in their last match. A tricky trip to the North East is not one they’ll be relishing as Cove look to become the first non league outfit to reach the last eight for many a year.
Brora, on the other hand, face a much tougher task to upset the odds in bringing Highland League representation to the Quarter Finals as they travel to a rejuvenated Kilmarnock side, who’s transition under Steve Clarke was emphasised with their home win over Champions Celtic at the weekend. For Brora, managed by former Caley Thistle defender Ross Tokely, they’re encountering another long journey having already travelled a 600 mile round trip to Stranraer in the Third Round. Having seen off East Fife away in the last round, they’ve brought in big business to their coach company! They will need to hope that Killie have a really big off day to have any chance of causing a shock result.
Whilst two sides called Rangers are hoping to create a giant killing story of their own, another are hoping to avoid being on the receiving end of one. Rangers travel to Ayr United on Sunday after breezing past Fraserburgh in the last round. Ayr are the country’s highest scorers with 95 goals across all four competitions this season, and they will be hoping that home advantage at Somerset Park will make life difficult enough for Graeme Murty’s side to cause a major upset.
The other Sunday pick for Sky cameras is at Pittodrie where last seasons runners up Aberdeen host Dundee United. Although they are a division apart, rivalry is still high between the two sides who became known as the “New Firm” following their respective successes in the early 1980’s. The Dons did breeze past Championship high flyers St Mirren in the last round but they won’t be taking the current second placed side in the second tier, who will be keen to show that they can topple one of the best sides in a League they hope to be in next season.
Back to Saturday, and there are three all Premiership ties. Holders Celtic are looking to take another step closer to a first back-to-back treble in Scottish Football when they take on fellow Glasgow side Partick Thistle in the lunchtime game on Saturday. Brendan Rodgers will be drilling it into his players to warn them against complacency, especially on the back of their defeat at Kilmarnock. Partick, on the other hand, will take heart from the fact they ran the Champions close at Firhill recently so they’ll be fancying their chances of at least a replay.
As tends to be the theme in Scottish Football, two sides who’ve recently met in the League collide again in the Cup. Hearts defeated St Johnstone 1-0 at the weekend at Tynecastle and the two go head to head in the Capital again on Saturday. Having gone out at this stage to their city rivals in each of the last two seasons, the Jambos will be hoping that their derby win in the last round acts as a stepping stone to greater things in this seasons competition, whilst Saints are looking to salvage something from a season that has nosedived following a promising start, with dreams of repeating their Cup glory of four years ago.
The last all Premiership tie takes us to Dens Park, where Dundee entertain Motherwell. The hosts have struggled at the wrong end for most of the season and are still smarting from a shock 4-1 hammering by Ross County, therefore a Cup run would be a welcome distraction from their league woes. Motherwell have already had a taste of a good Cup run having reached the League Cup Final, and will be confident that they can get to Hampden again should they progress to the Quarter Finals.
Also looking to find their way into the last eight are two Championship sides doing battle at Cappielow. Morton, who reached the League Cup Semi Finals last season, will be hoping that their positive start to 2018 continues with more Cup progress at home to Dumbarton, who have struggled this season and sit second bottom of the Championship. Stevie Aitken will be hoping that form goes out the window and that they can advance to the Quarter Finals, a feat they achieved in 2014.
So that’s the scene set for the Fifth Round of the Scottish Cup. There are plenty of opportunities for shocks and its guaranteed that two non top flight teams will reach the Quarter Finals, increasing the unlikely dreams for a lower league, or even non league, club to claim the famous old trophy.
Who knows what this weekends action will bring but it should produce lots of goals, entertainment, drama and heartache for eight clubs who see their Scottish Cup aspirations disappear.
The action will, of course, be talked about on next weeks episode of the Scottish Football Forums podcast and you can get the best odds on this weekends ties from McBookie.