'Why can't Hearts win?': Journalists' predictions for the Scottish Cup final
Our online team try to pick the result from Saturday's Scottish Cup final as Hearts try to end their season on the ultimate high with victory over Celtic at Hampden.
Patrick McPartlin: If Hearts had a full squad to choose from, I'd fancy them more to banjax Celtic's chances of a third consecutive treble. Naismith is a seasoned performer and his influence on the park is just as important as his ability. While he will be a big miss, the Jambos do have players capable of doing damage. Whether they'll be able to find a way past Celtic remains to be seen but on current form, it doesn't look good for Craig Levein's side. I can see them scoring - possibly even scoring first - from a well-worked set-piece, but even with a handful of injuries, Celtic's team is still full of experienced, multi-trophy-winning players and the carrot of that third treble will surely see them over the line one way or another. Neil Lennon has already lost once to Levein and Hearts this season, during his time as Hibs boss - he won't want to lose another, and certainly not a match of this magnitude. Prediction: Celtic win
Mark Atkinson: I've gone through numerous scenarios in my head of this cup final and very few of them end up in maroon ribbons being on the Scottish Cup. Hearts need a lot of things to go their way: Peter Haring and Uche Ikpeazu to be fully fit and last 90 minutes, their three centre-halves and goalkeeper to be on their A-game and Celtic to fail to hit fourth gear. As a local title, we desperately want Hearts to take the trophy back to Gorgie, but it's hard to predict any other outcome than a Celtic victory. I struggle to see where Hearts' goals will come from against the treble-treble chasing holders - set-pieces, as you're asking - and I just can't see James Forrest, Odsonne Edouard, Scott Sinclair and Callum McGregor not fashioning enough chances to score. I don't think Hearts will be eviscerated here, but I do think they'll lose.
Anthony Brown: Hearts’ prospects of an upset will surely hinge on just how fit, mobile and robust both Haring and Ikpeazu prove to be. If this duo - Hearts’ two most important men this season outwith Steven Naismith - are able to play anywhere near their best then it will significantly transform the Tynecastle side from the insipid outfit that has limped through the post-split league fixtures. Hearts, for all their poor performances this season, have competed well with Celtic in three of their four league meetings this term and were also fairly comfortable for 53 minutes of the Betfred Cup semi-final in October before a needless penalty concession and a goalkeeping howler gifted Celtic control. I expect them to make a game of it against Neil Lennon’s team this weekend. There is significant pressure on the champions who have been struggling, by their own high standards, in recent months and are carrying several niggling injuries. The logical assumption is that Celtic’s superior quality will prevail and they will end up with the treble-treble but Hearts, who have been almost exclusively focused on this particular match for the past six weeks, certainly have it within them to raise their game enough to take the trophy if the favourites are unable to find their stride early on. Prediction: Both teams to score in a narrow Celtic win
Neil McGlade: This is the first Scottish Cup final since 1998 that Hearts haven't been pre-match favourites to lift the trophy. Let's be honest, they have a pretty good record when it comes to this fixture in recent times. However, this one comes with the challenge of stopping a treble treble-chasing Celtic in their tracks. The Jambos have gone about their business quietly in the build up, Levein stressing in his pre-match press conference that the Gorgie club want that trophy just as much as their opponents, something a lot of the media and football fans across the country appear to have forgotten. They are going for the 'single single' after all. Everything is geared towards Celtic completing another domestic treble, some believe it's written in the stars following the recent passing of Lisbon Lions Billy McNeill and Stevie Chalmers. Lennon's side possess superior quality across the pitch and should be able to bat off whatever Hearts throw at them. Meanwhile, the Capital side have looked toothless in attack since the turn of the year with their best bet of a goal likely to come from a set-piece. The Glasgow club are overwhelming favourites and should win, possibly at a canter. But football doesn't always go to plan and I just have a sneaky feeling Hearts will make the return journey along the M8 with the trophy aboard the team bus. Prediction: Hearts win.
Joel Sked: Why not? Why can't Hearts go to Hampden Park and cause an upset tomorrow? Who had Hearts, managed by John McGlynn, drawing with Liverpool at Anfield? Who had Hearts beating 69-game unbeaten Celtic 4-0? Who had an Anatoly Korobochka-managed Hearts beating Celtic 2-0 at Parkhead? These last few weeks and months have shown that crazy, unexpected things can happen in football. It would be both crazy and unexpected if Hearts were to stop the treble treble. Celtic have won their last 26 domestic cup matches, pulverising the opposition with a combined scored of 81-7. They have the Premiership player of the year in James Forrest. Callum McGregor. Kieran Tierney. They can afford to leave Craig Gordon on the bench. Yet, under Neil Lennon they haven't been great. They have looked slow and vulnerable. If Hearts can summon the energy to blitz Celtic, make it a running contest they have a chance. It's a Scottish Cup final. Why not? Prediction: Hearts win