Sports Mole previews Sunday’s Scottish Cup clash between Celtic and Rangers, including predictions, team news and possible lineups.
Either Hibernian or Hearts await the winner in the final, and while Rangers are vying to win their first domestic cup competition for a decade, Celtic are on the hunt for their fifth Scottish Cup in six years.
Celtic are in high spirits heading into this weekend’s semi-final as they have won each of their last six matches across all competitions, including an emphatic 7-0 league victory at home against St Johnstone last Saturday.
January signing Matt O’Riley scored twice, while Reo Hatete, Giorgos Giakoumakis, Daizen Maeda, Josip Juranovic and Liel Abada also chipped in with a goal each to help the Hoops record their biggest league win since August 2019, which was also against the Saints by the same scoreline.
Ange Postecoglou‘s men remain in the driving seat to reclaim the Premiership title from their bitter rivals Rangers, as they are sitting six points clear at the summit with only five league games remaining, including another Old Firm derby on May 1.
Aside from last season’s disappointing fourth-round exit, Celtic have been a dominant force in the Scottish Cup in recent years, lifting the trophy in four successive seasons between 2016-17 and 2019-20. The Hoops hold the record for the most Scottish Cup triumphs with 40 and the most final appearances with 59.
Celtic were last eliminated at the semi-final stage in 2015-16 when Rangers – who were in the Championship at the time – won 5-4 on penalties after a 2-2 draw in 120 minutes.
Postecoglou’s men have already won the League Cup this campaign, and victory over the Gers on Sunday would keep their hopes of winning the domestic treble alive, an impressive feat they have achieved in four of the last five seasons.
For the first time since 2008, Rangers will be competing in the semi-finals of a European competition after they secured a 3-2 aggregate victory over Braga in the quarter-finals of the Europa League.
Despite losing 1-0 in the first leg away from home last week, the Gers went through to the last four after claiming a 3-1 second-leg win at Ibrox on Thursday night, with James Tavernier (2) and Kemar Roofe on the scoresheet, the latter netting the winning goal in extra time.
Giovanni van Bronckhorst labelled his side’s victory as a ‘special’ achievement, and if they wish to continue their journey in Europe they will now need to defeat Bundesliga outfit RB Leipzig over two legs to reach their first European final since 2008, when they lost to Zenit St Petersburg in the UEFA Cup showpiece event.
Rangers will now turn their attention to the Scottish Cup which they will be looking to win this season for the first time in 12 years. The Gers have only reached one final during this period and have been eliminated in the semi-finals on three occasions, with two of those defeats at the hands of rivals Celtic.
After enjoying a seven-game unbeaten run against Celtic across all competitions between December 2019 and August 2021, Rangers have since suffered back-to-back defeats against them, losing 3-0 at Parkhead in February and 2-1 at Ibrox earlier this month.
Both of those defeats have been under Van Bronckhorst who is yet to beat Celtic as Rangers boss, so he will be hoping for third time lucky at Hampden Park on Sunday.
Celtic Scottish Cup form:
Celtic form (all competitions):
Rangers Scottish Cup form:
Rangers form (all competitions):
Celtic have been dealt a major injury blow heading into this weekend’s game as Giorgos Giakoumakis – who is the top scorer in this year’s competition with four goals – has been ruled out with a hamstring injury.
Daizen Maeda could therefore be handed a start as the central striker, and although Kyogo Furuhashi is also an option having recovered from his own hamstring problem, the Japanese forward may begin on the bench as Postecoglou looks to manage his minutes.
A back four of Juranovic, Cameron Carter-Vickers, Carl Starfelt and Greg Taylor is set to remain intact while Ababa could be handed a start on the left wing, with Jota operating on the opposite flank.
Borna Barisic limped off in the 90th minute against Braga with what appeared to be a muscle problem, but the Croatian international has since revealed that he was only suffering from cramp and will be in contention to start at left-back on Sunday.
Celtic possible starting lineup:
Hart; Juranovic, Carter-Vickers, Starfelt, Taylor; Rogic, McGregor, Turnbull; Jota, Maeda, Abada
Rangers possible starting lineup:
McGregor; Tavernier, Goldson, Balogun, Barisic; Jack, Lundstram; Ramsey, Aribo, Kent; Roofe
We say: Celtic 2-1 Rangers (after extra time)
Although Celtic have come out on top in the last two meetings, there is little to separate these two Glaswegian giants and a closely-fought contest could be on the cards at Hampden Park, one which could even go beyond the 90 minutes.
There has to be a winner on Sunday, though, and while it is difficult to call, we feel that a fresh Celtic side in free-scoring form will do enough to edge themselves into the final.