Today, Celtic take on Inverness Caledonian Thistle at Hampden Park. The Scottish Cup Semi-Final is yet another significant match that stands between Ronny Deila and the treble dream.
Last weekend saw his side face a tough Inverness side in the Premiership away from home, earning only a draw in the end. Despite coming from behind during the week to eventally scalp Kilmarnock 4-1, last weeks 1-1 draw will serve as a reminder that this will be not be an easy match for Celtic.
Caley Thistle have been a bogey team for the Hoops stemming back several years now. Nobody needs reminding of Scottish Cup results in 2000 and 2003 and the accompanying tabloid headline from that first defeat suffered at Celtic Park.
The highlanders have also enjoyed some notable battles with Celtic over the years, raising their game when called for. And this season, they’ve given a very good account of themselves under former Hoops defender, John Hughes.
So going into today’s match, Celtic must proceed with caution. Thistle are more than capable of an upset and can demonstrate the kind of tough tackling and stubborness to frustrate most teams, though mostly Celtic.
Last week, I didn’t think the draw was a bad result given that it can be tricky to get one up in Inverness. At Hampden today though Celtic must show who is boss because there is the personnel to do just that.
Before I come to the team, its worth remembering that almost a year ago Celtic recorded one of the biggest wins over Caley Thistle in the Premiership. That 6-0 win was preceded by another 6-0 thrashing of them in League Cup in September 2010, so Celtic have had their revenge over the years.
That is a reminder of what Celtic can inflict upon Thistle given the right blend on the park. And that is the burning question today: how will Deila line up for this crucial cup tie?
There is no doubt Leigh Griffiths is our best striker right now but Ronny still interchanges him with John Guidetti, a man not hitting the netti. Although Griffiths was totally frustrated at being hooked against Caley Thistle last week despite scoring in the third minute of the match, he did come off the bench midweek and bag a sweet hat-trick to win the game.
That should make him a starter for today alongside the usual suspects of Gordon, Matthews, Izaguirre, Denayer, van Dijk, Bitton, Brown and Johansen. With Gary Macakay-Steven and Stuart Armstrong both cup-tied, the remaining berths are likely to be filled by Commons and Forrest, unless Ronny fancies going with two up front and playing the moody Swede alongside the Teacake.
Personally, I can’t see him doing that from the outset though. With Scepovic rarely featuring these days, it is more likely that Deila will play one striker at a time, only playing both at a point in the game when dual power is called for, as seen on Wednesday night.
Let’s hope for a good contest today, whatever the result. The treble is our goal, but we’re not at the final yet.
The hard work must be put in today to make sure there will be a day in May at Hampden. Falkirk made their first final in six years by beating Hibs 1-0.
Its another rare Scottish Cup Final appearance by the Bairns. Let’s make it a date.