Hampden Park will play host to the Betfred Cup final on Sunday to determine who grabs the first piece of Scottish silverware this season.
League leaders Celtic play host to Aberdeen in the final The Dons are looking to win the first piece of silverware that the Hoops haven’t lifted since Hibs won the Scottish Cup in May 2016.
Celtic have won the second-most Scottish League Cups (17), second to Rangers (27). Having won all three domestic trophies the past two seasons, they beat Motherwell 2-0 last season in the League Cup for the first of their three trophies.
Aberdeen have won it on six separate occasions, the last of which came in 2014 when they beat Inverness Caledonian Thistle 4-2 on penalties following a 0-0 draw in Derek McInnes’ first season in charge.
Finals between the pair
This duo have met in the final of this competition three times before. The first meeting contributed to one of Aberdeen’s six triumphs in 1976-77. They beat Celtic 2-1 after extra time.
The other two meetings have seen the Hoops get the better of the Dons without Aberdeen scoring. A 2-0 triumph in 1999-2000 was followed up with the first of their invincible season trophies by defeating Aberdeen 3-0 in the 2016-17 season, Brendan Rodgers’ first in charge.
Should Celtic win against Aberdeen, they’ll win their third consecutive Scottish League Cup, a feat which has only been achieved twice before. In fact, Celtic won the competition five years in a row from 1965-66 to 1969-70, the other occasion being when Rangers won three on the trot between 1986-87 to 1988-89.
Aberdeen have won just two trophies since 1990, both of which were League Cups in 1996 and 2014. This would be their seventh League Cup and 20th major honour. The Dons are also yet to concede a goal in the 300 minutes worth of football they’ve played in the competition this season. In the 72 years of the League Cup, just seven teams have won it without conceding a goal.
Route to the final
With both these teams finishing as last season’s top two, they automatically entered into the Betfred Cup second round.
Celtic played a Glaswegian derby and despite falling behind to Championship side Partick Thistle, they got the better of their second tier opponents 3-1. Aberdeen were able to batter newly-promoted Premiership side St Mirren 4-0 at Pittodrie.
The quarter finals provided a lot less goals. Celtic scraped past St Johnstone in Perth, thanks to a Leigh Griffiths winner, to book a semi-final place winning 1-0. Aberdeen travelled to the capital to get the better of Hibs 6-5 on penalties after a stalemate having played two hours of football with not a single goal between them.
In the semi-finals, Celtic would go to the capital as part of a top two clash but eased past Hearts 3-0 at Murrayfield. Aberdeen played Rangers at Hampden on the same day and, thanks to a Lewis Ferguson winner, won 1-0.
Both sides will look to their strikers to be the most likely to nick them glory. However, the sides’ two centre forwards are at totally different ends of the spectrum.
Celtic’s record signing Odsonne Edouard has 12 goals so far this season (Three in Champions League qualifying, two in the Europa League and seven in the Ladbrokes Premiership).
Stevie May has netted once this season, in the 4-0 win over St Mirren in the second round. In fact, he’s only scored six for Aberdeen since arriving at the Dons in January 2017 meaning that Edouard has netted double this season what May has in his Aberdeen career.
The 19 year old Edouard appears to have it all – strength, pace, composure, an eye for goal. Yet Stevie May can contribute a work rate and his movement is good. Whilst he’s yet to hit the heights of his St Johnstone days, he has proved he can come up with the goods on occasion. An interesting battle to watch.
Celtic’s Midfield Strength
Celtic are the favourites and have a plethora of midfielders able to create chances for Edouard. One of which being Callum McGregor, who has turned into a vital player for Celtic under Brendan Rodgers.
He’s even filled in at left back before and can play just about anywhere, having all the tools necessary to hurt Aberdeen, wherever he plays. A real creative spark in the heart of midfield whether it be as a no.10 or in front of the back four, as has been the case lately.
Aberdeen are the underdogs and will need to be tight defensively in order to keep Celtic at bay for as long as they can in the hope that they can nick a goal either on the counter attack or from a set piece/dead ball situation.
If there’s one thing certain on Sunday it’s that Joe Lewis will be required to keep Aberdeen in the tie as long as he can, a big performance will be needed from one of the best goalkeepers in the division.
Lastly, both sides will look to their pace and creativity on the flanks. Celtic able to do so through the man of the moment, James Forrest.
In perhaps the greatest form of his career, he has matured beyond his years under Rodgers and even played the role of hat-trick hero for Scotland against Israel in the most recent international break. Goals and assists proving to be second nature at the minute.
Gary Mackay-Steven will also have a point to prove
In this final, he will find himself up against his former club. Deemed not good enough to play in green and white, he’s more often than not at the heart of whatever the Dons create going forward. Pace and trickery always in abundance, he’s Aberdeen’s architect and if the Dons are to get a result, he will most likely be why.
It’s shaping up to be a cracker between two good teams in the Scottish game. But will Celtic do as expected and lift their 7th trophy under Brendan Rodgers or can Derek McInnes’ Aberdeen cause an upset and prevent a seemingly inevitable treble-treble?