Celtic vs. Motherwell
Scottish Cup Final
Saturday 19th May
BBC One Scotland & Sky Sports Football
This Saturday, Celtic once again find themselves presented with the opportunity to make history. This time last year we witnessed the Invincible Treble, whilst this time around it’s the potential of a feat no other team has achieved in the history of the Scottish game – a back to back treble.
Saturday’s final will certainly have something of a déjà vu like feel to it, as, much like November’s League Cup final, Celtic once again find themselves facing Motherwell.
It was a relatively comfortable 2-0 victory for the Bhoys on that day, but football’s an unpredictable game and cup finals have been known to bring about some shocks over the years. While Celtic will be sure they have what it takes to clinch the treble, Motherwell will undoubtedly be eager to get some payback for the League Cup and walk away with some silverware in the process.
Brendan Rodgers will be keen to continue his domestic trophy winning streak as Celtic manager and an important part of ensuring that happens is getting his team selection for Saturday right.
In his pre-match interview last Sunday, the manager stated that he already knew his starting eleven for Saturday’s final. So could the team we saw against Aberdeen be the same one that lines up this weekend, or could we potentially be in for a few surprises?
Perhaps the first question regarding the potential line-up for the final, is just who will start in goal - Craig Gordon or Scott Bain? Whilst Bain has certainly performed well when called upon, earning himself a four year contract in the process, it’s still up in the air whether or not the manager truly fancies him as Celtic’s new no.1. In addition to that, Craig Gordon is obviously the more experienced player and certainly no stranger to playing in cup finals. It’s that experience that, in all likelihood, will probably tip the odds in Gordon’s favour.
In terms of our back four, it’s unlikely that we’ll be seeing anything surprising. Kristoffer Ajer and Dedryck Boyata (a man who will be eager to prove his worth, after announcing his desire to sign a contract extension earlier in the week) have largely been our first choice central pairing in recent times, and I’d say that it’s unlikely to change given the nature of Saturday’s match. For similar reasons, it unlikely that anyone will be displacing Mikael Lustig and Kieran Tierney from their respective places on the left and right.
Scott Brown certainly has a busy weekend ahead of him as not only does he have the cup final on Saturday, but he’ll also be taking part in his testimonial match against the Republic of Ireland XI on Sunday as well. As such, one would imagine that he’ll be looking to his midfield partner to help lighten his workload on Saturday. Olivier Ntcham is probably the most likely candidate for that role, having pretty much cemented his role in our starting XI over the course of the season. Ntcham’s debut Scottish Cup campaign has certainly been a decent one, with the French u-21 international contributing two goals on our path to the final.
Will Celtic make history once again on Saturday?
Whilst there’s been many fantastic moments with Celtic in the Scottish Cup over the years, one that’s sure to live in the memory of many fans is Tom Rogic’s injury time winner that ultimately sealed the deal on the Invincible Treble. It’s his ability to produce such moments that makes him such an invaluable member of our squad, and combined with the news of his new five year contract, I’d say he’s a likely candidate for Saturday’s starting XI.
Whilst Rogic is a man we’ll likely be seeing in the famous Hoops for years to come, one player who sadly looks to be leaving the club this summer is Patrick Roberts. Recent comments by Roberts suggest that Sunday’s game is likely to be his last as a member of the Celtic squad, as he aims to establish himself in the English Premier League next season. However, given the way Roberts has been utilised following his return from injury, it’s unlikely that he’ll be starting the match (an honour that’s likely to go to on one our standout performers this season, James Forrest) but a substitute/farewell appearance seems likely. In regards to who’ll play out on the left wing, one would imagine that our top scorer, Scott Sinclair, is likely to start.
The final position up for grabs on Saturday is that of our lone striker. Odsonne Edouard will sadly play no part in the final due to injury (although the young Frenchman can take pride in the fact that his two goals in the campaign helped us reach the final in the first place) leaving our other two strikers to battle it out for the starting place. Moussa Dembele is the obvious candidate, being both our highest scoring striker in the Scottish Cup (with three goals) and across all competitions (with seventeen goals). Leigh Griffiths meanwhile has chipped in with fourteen goals this season, but has struggled for consistency in recent weeks. In all likelihood, Dembele will be given the nod but I’d still expect for Griffiths to make some sort of appearance on Saturday.
They may not have the won Cup since 1991 but Stephen Robinson’s men will undoubtedly be going in to Saturday’s final with the belief that they have what it takes to end the 27 year drought.
Motherwell have had somewhat mixed fortunes against Celtic this season, they lost the League Cup final and twice in the league (including a 5-1 drubbing) but also manged to bag two draws against the Champions. While it may not make for the most inspired reading, they will take some confidence from those draws.
Curtis Main has been the Steelman’s main attacking threat in the Scottish Cup, having scored three goals on the way to the final - a tally he’ll surely be eager to add to come Saturday. However, Main isn’t Motherwell’s only goal scorer, with Ryan Bowman having seven goals to his name in the league (making him their second highest scoring player, behind only Louis Moult).
Will Cedric Kipre do the red card treble?
At the other end of the pitch, Trevor Carson has put on a number of impressive displays, with the Northern Irish international pulling out some top drawer saves over the course of the season (which in turn led to alleged Celtic interest in January, before we ultimately opted for Scott Bain instead).
Another player Celtic fans will want to keep their eye on is defender, Cedric Kipre. Kipre hasn’t had the best of luck where Celtic’s concerned having been sent off in both the League Cup final and in the goalless draw in March. Given that his sending off in the League Cup final led to the penalty that saw Celtic go two goals clear, I’d expect that he’ll be on his best behaviour come Saturday