Hibs boss Alan Stubbs believes the mere sight of Farid El Alagui will strike fear into the heart of Falkirk’s defence in today’s Scottish Cup semi-final at Hampden.
El Alagui scored 27 goals in just 43 matches in one season for the Bairns and having returned to action after a seven-month battle to regain full fitness following a ruptured Achilles tendon, his last-minute strike clinched a confidence-boosting derby victory over Hearts.
Today Stubbs admitted the 29-year-old’s comeback had given everyone at Easter Road a lift, seeing the hitman as playing a big part in the coming weeks as Hibs seek to clinch a place in the cup final and win promotion back to the Premiership.
The head coach said: “I think Farid can be a very potent weapon for us. Falkirk will know all about him, his threat both physically and in front of goal and I am sure they will do their homework to try to nullify that.
“But I am certainly glad he is on our side and not that of the opposition. Because of what he gives us he can distract defenders. He does attract probably more than just one at a time because of his hold up play, his strength and his aerial ability.”
El Alagui and teenager Jason Cummings, Hibs’ top scorer with 17 goals, formed the strikeforce which sank Hearts, but, Stubbs insisted, he’s got plenty of options up front, with Dominique Malonga and Franck Dja Djedje also fighting for their places.
He said: “We have the makings of a potent strikeforce. There’s goals in there and now with them all fit I have a nice problem. But the timing of Farid coming back has been a great lift to everybody, not just him.”
But while the bookies have made Hibs firm favourites to make their third Scottish Cup final in four years, Stubbs issued a word of caution, recalling that Falkirk have enjoyed two 1-0 victories over his side this season while also battling back to claim a draw having been 3-1 down.
He said: “Anyone saying the result is a foregone conclusion is talking nonsense. The results between us so far tell you that it will be a very tight game. Yes, on our day, if we play well, we have a good chance of coming through, but Peter [Falkirk manager Houston] will be saying the same.
“I haven’t said we are favourites, people have made that presumption. We just go into the game knowing that if we perform well, we can win.
“We have a really difficult game and we’ll have to be at our best to go through. I don’t think there’s much between the teams, I don’t think there’s a favourites tag in this game.”
While agreeing the victory over Hearts had set his side up nicely for the semi-final, Stubbs added: “A semi-final is different.
“There’s so much at stake and a lot more pressure involved in the game. Every player wants to get to the final. It will bring pressure, nerves, butterflies and excitement. You have to control all of that.
“This is the worst round of the cup, you are so close yet so far. Nobody wants to be a loser come the final whistle.”