Celtic vs. Motherwell
Betfred League Cup Final
Sunday 26th November
BT Sport 1
On the 27th November 2016, Brendan Rodgers guided his Celtic side to their first silverware of the season and began the march towards a historic, undefeated treble. This Sunday, on the 26th November 2017, he’ll once again lead his Invincibles out on to Hampden’s pitch with the aim of repeating that feat.
Sunday’s final will also have an added dimensions for both sides, as it also happens to be the first meeting between Celtic and Motherwell this season and the first in a trilogy of matches against the Steelmen in the space of a week. So whoever wins the final on Sunday, will also be setting the tone for the subsequent matches.
The main topic of discussion regarding Celtic heading in to Sunday’s final is that of injuries and potential absentees.
Brendan Rodgers confirmed during his press conference on Friday that Mikael Lustig and the man that replaced him on Wednesday night, Nir Bitton, are both doubts heading in to Sunday’s clash. Whilst Bitton has largely served as an emergency centre back during our recent injury crisis, and was unlikely to be chosen ahead of a fully fit Boyata or Simunovic anyway, Lustig is pretty much our undisputed right back As such, that raises the question of who will replace him should he fail to recover in time for Sunday?
The obvious choice would be Cristian Gamboa, an experienced player in his own right, and, more importantly our only fully fit right back (Anthony Ralston is not in contention, as he's still rehabilitating following his knee injury) . However, the Costa Rican international has struggled to get minutes on the pitch since arriving the last summer. That in turn raises the question of whether the manager will give Gamboa the nod, or if he’ll simply tweak our formation and play without a recognised right back. Of course, this dilemma could be rendered a moot point should Lustig recover in time.
Can Celtic repeat their success of last season?
Gamboa, however, isn’t the only player potentially looking to make the starting eleven on Sunday. The manager made the decision to rest the trio of Stuart Armstrong, Scott Sinclair and Patrick Roberts against PSG, possibly suggesting that all three are in line for a starting place come kick-off. Should that be the case, then Olivier Ntcham & James Forrest (who scored our second goal in last year’s final) are likely to be the players making way for Armstrong and Roberts/
Brendan Rodgers also faces the dilemma of deciding who starts up front for us in the coveted lone striker role. Moussa Dembele started on Wednesday, netting an early goal against PSG, whilst Leigh Griffiths was utilised as a late substitute. Whilst you could make a case that this perhaps suggests that the manger was saving Griffiths for the final, it’s also important to note that Dembele is arguably the man in form. Since returning to the squad in late September, the French u-21 international has scored six goals (including a double in the semi-final) and assisted with two more. On top of that, Dembele has a fairly good record in this very competition. Last season, he scored five goals throughout the campaign, making him our top goal scorer, including a penalty in the final (which was our third and final goal of the day). However, regardless of who the manager ultimately decides to go with, you wouldn’t bet against either of them scoring at some point on Sunday should they be given the chance.
The number 67 holds a special meaning among the Celtic support and it’s a number that’s likely to be on the minds of many in the Motherwell support come Sunday as well. It’s been 67 years since the Steelmen last lifted the cup (when they beat Hibs 3-0 on the 28th October 1950 at Hampden, with 64,074 people in attendance) and they’ll be hoping that they don’t have to wait 68.
Will Louis Moult lead Motherwell to victory?
If Stephen Robinson’s side do pull of a shock victory on Sunday, it’s likely that their star striker, Louis Moult will have had something to say about it. The in demand Englishman is currently the league’s top goal sorcerer (with eight goals) and has scored six goals in this cup campaign, including a double in the semi-final that fired Motherwell into the final. If Brendan Rodgers wants to avoid any unwelcome surprises on Sunday, finding a way to muzzle Moult will undoubtedly be his top priority.