The scene is set
This weekend, the Scottish Cup semi-finals take centre stage north of the border, with Celtic facing current holders St Johnstone on Saturday. Sunday’s match sees Rangers play their first match since manager Steven Gerrard dramatically left for Aston Villa. The competition’s most successful team play Hibs, who haven’t won the cup since 2007.
Hampden witnessed a famous upset earlier this week when Scotland rallied to defeat group winners Denmark in the World Cup qualifiers, and another shock result is expected. You can bet on both matches at Betfair with a wide range of markets available.
A resurgent Celtic will rate their chances of claiming the first piece of silverware up for grabs this season. The Hoops have won this trophy 19 times in the past, including in all but one of the last five seasons, the spare picked up by St Johnstone last year. To have any chance of regaining the trophy, Celts must overthrow the current champions in what will be manager Ange Postecoglou’s first visit to the national stadium.
They have met the Saints already this season, beating them 2-0 at Parkhead in the league less than a month ago. Georgios Giakoumakis opened the scoring in that match on 34 minutes before Josip Juranovic rifled home a late penalty to wrap up the points. Celtic haven’t lost a match to the Saints since May 2016. They have scored six goals in their last two meetings while keeping a pair of clean sheets. Celtic to book their place in the final with a win is 1.392/5 on the Betfair Exchange.
Saints enjoy a love affair with Hampden
St Johnstone enjoyed a remarkable season, winning both the League Cup and the Scottish Cup against all the odds. The Perth side claimed some major scalps along the way and displayed their best form at Hampden. Fans missed both occasions due to lockdown but will be out in force to cheer on their heroes this weekend. They’ll hope to see a glimmer of the fighting spirit shown by Callum Davidson’s men last term.
Their recent league form hasn’t been anywhere near as inspiring, but the underdogs do head into this semi-final on the back of a three-match unbeaten run in the Scottish Premiership. That purple patch consists of two draws and a win, conceding just one goal in that run. Since losing to Celtic, they have drawn 1-1 with Hearts, beaten Dundee United 1-0 and fought out a goalless finish with St Mirren. That solid defence will be called into action again here. Another draw is 54/1 with the St Johnstone win trading at 9.617/2.
Saints are capable of scoring
Celtic enter as the form side of the two enjoying a strong run in the Premiership and Europa League, but this will be a first visit to Hampden for Postecoglou and many of his players. The big occasion could catch them out, and St Johnstone are likely to put the pressure on early.
In their two previous games this month, Celtic have conceded four goals, including two at Dens Park against a Dundee side that is second bottom of the league and one of the competition’s lowest scorers. Both teams to score appeals at 21/1 and can be added to your weekend Accas.
Rangers were rocked to their boots by the departure of manager Gerrard, who left for Villa Park and his first crack at managing in the Premier League. The former England and Liverpool captain, who led Rangers to a famous 55th title, took most of his backroom staff with him, leaving the light blues requiring a full rebuilding job. Many fans were upset by the timing as Rangers face a semi-final and are in a battle to qualify for the Europa League knockout stages.
The club endured a few delays this week when appointing their new manager, leaving former Tottenham striker Jermaine Defoe to help prepare for what is a huge game in the club’s season. Rangers are top of the league, have won three of their last four and scored 10 goals in their last two league starts. Rangers are 1.491/2 to win this match in regulation time.
Hibs have lost their last four
This match comes at the wrong time for Hibs after the Edinburgh club lost their last four games. They travel to Glasgow on the back of their worst run of the campaign, dropping to sixth in the league. The Hibees are just three points better off than Livingston, who are third from bottom.
Confidence is low in the camp, but manager Jack Ross must rally his troops. They have a real chance of reaching the League Cup final for the first time since 2016 when losing 2-1 against Ross County. Each of those four league defeats have come this month, including a 2-1 loss at Ibrox. They have conceded nine goals and scored just two but did take the lead in that narrow defeat to Rangers. Hibs are 6.411/2 to win with a draw 4.47/2.
Gers to top an emotional week
Under normal circumstances, this would be a strong bet on Rangers with Gerrard in charge, but the club have endured an emotional week and face a transitional period that could shape their season. A win here would help put the loss of their manager behind them and signal the new dawn.
Hibs’ recent form makes them easy to oppose, but this is the big occasion, and the players will find the usual 10% they do against the Old Firm. The fact they scored first at Ibrox, and there will be a nervousness about the favourites, encourages a bet on both teams to score.