Hibs travel to Hampden on Saturday aiming to do what no other team in Scotland has managed since May 2016 – beat Celtic. Ahead of the Betfred Cup semi-final at Hampden, we look at four factors which give the Edinburgh club hope ...
CAN CELTIC HACK THE PACE?
Celtic have become a relentless winning machine under Brendan Rodgers but there are signs they are starting to feel the strain of competing on all fronts. Today’s game against Hibs will be their 21st match of the season already. The champions were flat as they edged past Dundee last weekend. Now, having being given the runaround by Bayern Munich in Germany on Wednesday night, it will take a mighty effort to eke out another winning display.
SELECTION WORRIES FOR RODGERS
While skipper Scott Brown and fellow midfielder Stuart Armstrong were back in the Celtic line-up after injury for their 3-0 Champions League defeat by Bayern, there was a setback for Rodgers before the midweek game when defender Jozo Simunovic suffered a recurrence of his hamstring problem. That left the Northern Irishman with little option but to move Mikael Lustig to centre-half, with Christian Gamboa taking the Swede’s right-back slot. However, after seeing Gamboa torn to shreds by Kingsley Coman, Rodgers may decide putting Lustig back out wide and bringing in either youngster Kris Ajer or midfielder Nir Bitton to partner Dedryck Boyata is the safer option.
HIBS COULD PUSH HOOPS ALL THE WAY AGAIN
Few sides have come as close to ending Celtic’s long domestic unbeaten run as Hibs did last month. Inspired by two-goal hero John McGinn, the visitors had the Hoops on the rack at Parkhead. Had it not been for Craig Gordon’s second-half wonder save from Steven Whittaker, they may have become the first Scottish side since St Johnstone back in May 2016 to have toppled the treble holders. In the end, a 2-2 draw was the best the Leith men could manage but, if they can match that intensity, there is every chance they can go one better this time.
McGINN HAS A POINT TO PROVE
The Hibs midfielder could not have picked a better moment to produce one of the best displays of his career, rocketing home two goals at Celtic Park just days before the Scotland squad met up for games against Slovakia and Slovenia. Yet it was not enough to convince Gordon Strachan to throw him into action during the all-important World Cup qualifiers. Now that Strachan’s reign as national team boss has come to an end, the opportunity is there for McGinn to prove he can be the future linchpin of Scotland’s midfield by putting on a repeat show of his Parkhead display.