THE penultimate stage of this years William Hill Scottish Cup is just days away, with four sides hoping this weekend isn’t their last trip to Hampden.
Fans of Hearts, Inverness Caledonian Thistle, Aberdeen and Celtic will descend on the south side of Glasgow confident that their side will reach the Final on 25 May. There’s the potential of two cracking Semi Finals in store and each side knows that just one piece of magic, or one little mistake, could be the difference between a shot at Cup Glory and licking their Semi Final wounds.
Here’s our preview of this weekends Semi Finals.
Saturday 12 April – Hearts v Inverness
These sides met in two consecutive League Cup Semi Finals in 20013 and 2014, with each side coming through on penalties in their respective victories, but this is the first time they’ve met at this stage in the Scottish Cup.
Hearts are overwhelming favourites, being the Premiership side and having dislodged Inverness 5-0 in the League Cup group stages. With a big following expected to travel through from the Capital, there is a lot of expectation on Craig Levein’s side to reach their first final since the 2012 triumph over arch rivals Hibs. Having struggled to overcome Championship strugglers Partick Thistle in the Quarter Finals, the Jambos will require an improved performance to book a return trip in six weeks time.
When Inverness Caledonian Thistle were held to a 1-1 draw by Edinburgh City in Round Three, it would’ve been ludicrous for John Robertson to suggest that his side could win a second Scottish Cup to add to their famous success four years ago. Having trounced the League Two side in the replay, they’ve seen off East Kilbride, Highland rivals Ross County and fellow Championship promotion hopefuls Dundee United to get to this stage. Robertson would love to put one over his former club, particularly after that League Cup humiliation, and give the Caley fans another day out to remember with a third ever major Cup Final, all within five years.
Sunday 14 April – Aberdeen v Celtic
They’ve been the best two sides in the country for the last four seasons, and have contested three of the last five Cup Finals. Aberdeen and Celtic is always an occasion to look forward to.
Having lost all three of these Finals, Aberdeen will be hoping that this is their opportunity to finally get one over Celtic at Hampden and take a big step to ending their 29 year Scottish Cup hoodoo. Expectations have been heightened with the Quarter Final win over Rangers, spoiling the media of a fourth consecutive Old Firm Semi Final. However, they are again without their suspended skipper Graeme Shinnie, who missed last years Semi Final humiliation by Motherwell. The Dons faithful will be hoping that others can step up to the plate to ensure he hasn’t played his last Cup game of the season and take them one step closer to ending that long wait for the Scottish Cup.
Meanwhile, Celtic are seeking to extend history by completing a hat trick of trebles having done the clean sweep under Brendan Rodgers. However, he stunned the Parkhead faithful with his mid-season departure to Leicester City and Celtic have been unconvincing in Neil Lennon’s second spell, requiring late goals to win three matches and having uneventful 0-0 draws in two others. That said, their best performance since his return came in the Quarter Final win at Hibs and he has players who know how to turn up in the big games, therefore it’d be foolish to write them off. If the likes of Tom Rogic, Ryan Christie and Callum McGregor turn up on Sunday, then it’s going to be difficult for anyone to stop Celtic extending their domestic dominance and another clean sweep.
So the scene is set with maroon and blue at either end one day and red and green the next, creating a colourful Semi Final weekend. The two sides from the central belt are the overwhelming favourites to win their respective ties to make it a Glasgow v Edinburgh occasion on 25 May. However, the two underdogs from the North will be hopeful of upsetting the apple cart and, who knows, could see them face each other in another Final having contested the League Cup Final in 2014.
Of course, it could be a mixture with a potential repeat of the 1986 Scottish Cup Final between Hearts and Aberdeen, or Celtic could be facing their biggest Ghosts of Scottish Cup past in their quest to win the triple treble.
Here’s to two cracking Semi Finals and that the SFF Podcast team will be reflecting on a couple of classics on next weeks show.