Scottish Cup Final
History awaits Rodgers’ Celtic side
At the end of a week in which a series of celebrations were held to mark the 50th anniversary of the Lisbon Lions’ historic European Cup win over Inter Milan, the current Celtic team will be aiming to carve their own niche in club folklore.
Brendan Rodgers’ side take on Aberdeen in the William Hill Scottish Cup Final at Hampden Park tomorrow and are just 90 minutes away from completing their first clean sweep of domestic trophies since 2001.
Parkhead chairman Ian Bankier has drawn favourable comparisons between Jock Stein’s all-conquering class of ’67 and Rodgers’ men.
“When you look at this team, you get a kind of whiff of Lions about them,” he said.
“There is a togetherness, which everybody notices, and there is a confidence. There is real confidence there, so there is a definite synergy there.”
Self-belief is something the Hoops will have in abundance as they take to the Hampden turf tomorrow. How they cope with the weight of expectation, however, remains to be seen.
Anything is possible in a one-off situation, although it will be regarded as a major shock if Celtic don’t add the Scottish Cup to their haul of honours this season.
Aberdeen failed to test Celtic in losing the League Cup Final 3-0 in November and boss Derek McInnes, who has steered the Dons to three successive second place finishes in the Premiership, will be desperate to atone for that disappointment.
Adding further intrigue to the occasion is that the final could well be McInnes’ last game in charge, with Sunderland believed to have him on their short-list to replace David Moyes.
On paper, the Dons have their work cut out against the record-breaking champions, who have earned the “Invincibles” tag after going through the league campaign unbeaten in finishing 30 points clear of the second-placed Pittodrie outfit.
Recent results suggest a shock is unlikely. The teams have already met five times this season, including the League Cup Final, with Celtic winning all five matches, scoring 12 goals in the process and conceding just two.
“We’ve played them five times and won the five games and they have all been slightly different in terms of how they have performed and how they have played,” said Rodgers.
“Derek has done a great job, not just this year but building up over the course of the last four seasons. They have had a really high standard of play.
“He has them very well organised, they are very well drilled, they play to their strengths. For us it is really about what game we bring to Hampden and if we can bring our best game then we feel we have a really good chance of winning.”
McInnes, meanwhile, has been impressed by what he has seen from Celtic this season.
“The consistency has been remarkable really. When a question has been asked of them – and it hasn’t been asked too often – they have found the answers and found a way to win,” he said.
“I think you can just admire the work that has been done.”
Football, of course, was put into perspective earlier this week when 22 people were killed in the Manchester Arena atrocity.
As a result of discussions with Police Scotland following the attack, both Aberdeen and Celtic have ditched plans for trophy-winning celebrations for their fans.
William Hill odds: Celtic 2/7; Aberdeen 5/2.