- All Green & White Cup Final
~~~~~~~~~~ Official TC Match Preview ~~~~~~~~~~
Hampden Park Glasgow
Sunday, 19 December 2021
The first silverware of the 2021/22 season is up for grabs at Hampden Park this weekend - and the question is, will the Cup be destined for the east end of Glasgow, or be taken to the capital, Edinburgh?
Celtic are chasing their 20th League Cup triumph overall - and the first of the Ange Postecoglou era.
Additionally if they can manage to take the honours, it will be for the sixth time in the past eight years - including four on the trot that set the Hoops on the trail of those four consecutive treble winning seasons.
So while there is still a good sprinking of experience in the Celtic squad of having been here before, such as the skipper, Callum McGregor, Tom Rogic, David Turnbull, Greg Taylor and Joe Hart, this will be a new experience for a majority of the players.
On paper, Postecoglou's side would seem to be favourites, but anyone thinking that this is a simply a matter of showing up on the day to claim the prize need to reconsider this mindset, as the Easter Road club have proven to be a very difficult opponant to put away in recent encounters between these two clubs.
The Hoops are coming into this showpiece on the back of six consecutive victories in all competitions - a run that has been sustained while contending with an extensive number of players ruled out through injury and therefore has made this feat all the more remarkable.
Hoops hope for the first prize of the Postecoglou era
Likewise, when considering the head to head record between the sides.
Hibs have often proved to be a thorn in the side of Celtic and have been a difficult team to defeat at times - indeed, three of the past four meetings have ended in stalemate - but that said, the Edinburgh side have not gotten the better of the Hoops in any of the past 12 meetings - the last time being in December 2018.
However, while Celtic have been contending with a depleted squad, the Edinburgh side have their own troubles - not least of which is the weight of history, if they are to defeat Celtic in any Cup Final for the first time since 1972, and lift the League Cup for the fourth time overall - if they do it will be their first such success since 2007.
But more immediate than that, the Easter Road club have recently parted ways with Jack Ross, after a run of poor results in the league.
This run has seen them slip down into the mid-table scrap, but it appears that former Celt, Shaun Maloney is on the brink of stepping down from his current role as Roberto Martinez' number two with the Belgian national team, and is being lined up to take over in Leith.
However, even if that deal is finalized, Maloney will not be in the dugout for the Hibees, with interum boss, David Gray continuing to be in charge for this clash.
Hibernian, for their part, have a squad of players who have tasted the highs and the lows at Hampden. Indeed, 10 of the starting XI from the Scottish Cup Final defeat by St Johnstone at the end of last season are all in the mix, and have proved that they have been able to learn from that experience and turn it to their advantage, as evidenced by their last visit to Hampden, when they recorded a resounding victory over Sevco last month, and will be determined to go one better, on Sunday.
All of this however is irrelevant once Referee John Beaton blows his whistle to kick off on Sunday, and Celtic will have to be prepared and on their toes against what will be a determined Hibernian side with a point to prove.
Tony Ralston rises to the challenge to score the dramatic late winner in midweek
Road to Hampden
Celtic's quest to reclaim the League Cup got off to an impressive start, with a fine display of attacking football that belied the final 3-2 scoreline as they defeated Hibs' city rivals, Hearts. This was followed up by a relatively straightforward Quarter Final 3-0 win over Championship outfit, Raith Rovers, before a James Forrest strike proved the difference as the defending League Cup holders, St Johnstone were knocked out.
Hearts 3-2, Raith 3-0, St J 1-0
Hibs journey has some curious similarities, with a 2-0 win over Championship side, Kilmarnock setting them on their way. An impressive 3-1 win over Taysiders, Dundee United followed, before Martin Boyle's first half hatrick was the catalyst as the Edinburgh club knocked out Celtic's Glasgow neighbours.
Killie 2-0, Dundee Utd 3-1, Sevco 3-1
There are more than a few headaches for Postecoglou ahead of this weekend's Hampden Park showdown. All eyes are focused on the race for a slew of players to prove their fitness, including the likes of Kyogo Furuhashi and Mikey Johnstone - the later of which was spotted taking part in training at Lennoxtown on Friday, which is a positive sign. Even if they are, the question is, would Postecoglou gamble on playing them from the start.
The Celts will be without the attacking talents of Jota, Albian Ajeti, James Forrest, Karamoko Dembele, in addition to defender Christopher Julien, while the prognosis for Greek striker Giorgos Giakoumakis, who could be in a race against time to prove his fitness.
As for Hibs meanwhile, David Grey will likely have close to a full squad to choose from, with Christian Doidge and Jamie Murphy, both of whom were forced off with a knoc in the 1-0 win over Dundee in midweek, seemingly have recovered enough for them to be included in the squad and available for selection on Sunday.
Kyogo Furuhashi's fitness remains under the spotlight ahead of the Cup Final
~~~~ Head to Head ~~~~
P: 313 W: 179 D: 80 L: 54
Last 5 Meetings
W D D D W
~~~~ 2021/22 Form ~~~~
W W W W W ~ W D L D L
League Cup Titles
1972–73, 1991–92, 2006–07
1956–57, 1957–58, 1965–66, 1966–67, 1967–68, 1968–69, 1969–70,
1974–75, 1982–83, 1997–98, 1999–2000, 2000–01, 2005–06,
2008–09, 2014–15, 2016–17, 2017–18, 2018–19, 2019–20
Graeme Stewart & Calum Spence