With the 128th Scottish Cup Final just two days away, it is time for us to focus our efforts on previewing the game. We will of course publish our own preview of the Scottish Cup Final soon, but who better to look at their final than several fans of the clubs participating. When we say fans, we mean fans.
Hibernian Fan view
First up is Hibernian supporter Bobby Sinnet, whose first game as a Hibee was back in 1986 and is a season ticket holder at the Easter Road club.
Key Player for Hibs?
I think the key player for Hibs on Sunday will be Kevin Thomson. He’s going to be the most experienced midfielder, and I think Hibs will need to compete in midfield or we could struggle. I think we could see Kevin’s biggest performance yet in a Hibs shirt.
Opposition player you fear?
I hope Gary Hooper has an off day – he’s been prolific for Celtic this season again. His movement may trouble our central defensive pairing, and that may be a factor in who Pat Fenlon decides to play.
Hibs are much improved on last season, in every area of the team. We have the best striker in Scotland [Leigh Griffiths], and our team has been much on form in the last five games. Our defence and midfield have been solid, and we haven’t lost since we last played Celtic at the start of April.
Our young players have come in and performed, they will be relatively unknown to Celtic which could give us an advantage, especially if Alex Harris starts. For some reason we perform well in front of the telly cameras, and are unbeaten in our last 10 Sunday live games, since we lost on the opening day at Tannadice.
Sometimes our midfield struggles to assert authority on the game, and this can result in more pressure on the defence as well as a lack of service to Leigh Griffiths. We’ve lost more goals than we should have this season, although this has been much improved in recent weeks, possibly due to the introduction of Jordan Forster. He may or may not start on Sunday.
At times we’ve been over reliant on Griffiths for our goals, but again this has improved in recent weeks with more players and areas of the team chipping in. Hopefully that will continue on Sunday.
How will the manager set out his team tactically?
I suspect that the manager will revert to the tried and trusted 4-5-1 tight solid formation that served us well in the earlier rounds, although the injury situation with James McPake and Tim Clancy may impact on his choices for team and formation.
I do expect a fluid and quick plan B though, in the event we go a goal behind – a shift to a 4-4-2. Celtic have shown themselves to be vulnerable in their recent visits to Hampden, and I think that we might be able to exploit that.
Starting XI: Williams; Maybury, McPake, Hanlon, McGivern; Harris, Claros, Taiwo, Thomson, Doyle; Griffiths.
Subs: Murdoch, Forster, Stevenson, Wotherspoon, Caldwell.
I would say that there are strong cases for the inclusion of several other players, notably Gary Deegan, Scott Robertson, Tim Clancy, Matt Done & Danny Handling. Pat has a difficult job to narrow it down to 16.
I think this will be a tight game, and a single goal could win it. It’s going to be a tough ask for Hibs against a very good Celtic team, but this is a fine set of dedicated players who have excelled in the cup competition.
Celtic Fan view
Next is Celtic supporter Andrew Angus, a lifelong Celtic supporter.
Had Victor Wanyama avoided suspension in the semi-final against Dundee United then I would have been tempted to go for him, however, Scott Brown’s return from injury is a massive boost for Celtic. The Scottish international has the ability to drive forward and is always bursting with energy. He will be vital in breaking up play and picking out Celtic’s playmakers. The captain has had a torrid time with injury this season missing out on key fixtures, such as Celtic’s magnificent victory over Barcelona at Parkhead and will be determined to lift the Scottish Cup this weekend, as he did in 2011.
Opposition player you fear?
It would be obvious to go for the likes of Leigh Griffiths or Alex Harris as players to watch, however, the player I fear the most is the Hibernian goalkeeper, Ben Williams. The English stopper has made crucial saves for Pat Fenlon’s men, especially on the Leith club’s Scottish Cup run. He also has an excellent track record of saving penalties, something which Celtic have a good track record of missing! On his day he can be very hard to beat and as this is the last game of the season for both clubs, you could almost count on him putting in a good performance. Williams may frustrate Celtic as Cammy Bell did in last season’s Scottish Communities League Cup Final.
Celtic strengthsYou need look no further than the UEFA Champions League to show where Celtic’s strengths lie. The Hoops’ set pieces have been extremely good this season and with the dangerous delivery of Charlie Mulgrew, Hibs are sure to be put under pressure any time Celtic have a corner or free-kick. The height of players such as Georgios Samaras and Efe Ambrose in the box may cause the opposition problems if the delivery is right.
A second strength of Neil Lennon’s side is their ability to break quickly on the counter attack. Hibs cannot afford to be caught sleeping in the Celtic half as players, such as James Forrest and Georgios Samaras have the pace to beat any player.
One final strength the Hoops have is, that they can rely on the safe hands of Fraser Forster in goals. The Englishman has proved himself at the highest level time and time again this season, denying players such as Lionel Messi and Oscar Cardozo. Forster is a commanding figure in the box and has very good reflexes, an attribute that is most definitely required to stop Leigh Griffiths.
For me, it is very easy to pinpoint the main weaknesses in our team. Celtic have found it very difficult to keep clean sheets this season. Kelvin Wilson and Efe Ambrose have too often been caught sleeping. Slips and sloppy passing has this season led to poor goals being given away. Wilson, a composed figure in defence, and for me, the most improved player at the club over the year, has a cool head but is often a bit ‘too cool’. The same could be said for Efe Ambrose, only he is slightly worse as he tends to stride forward with the ball and often loses it.
A second weakness I can notice is when Gary Hooper doesn’t play well, Celtic don’t play well. If the Englishman is not up for it on Sunday then I can see the Hoops struggling. He is an instinctive finisher, a predator in the box, but too often falls out of games. If Hibs can keep him quiet then they have a very good chance.
How will the manager set out his team tactically?
Despite recently opting to use the 4-3-3 formation, there’s only one way I can see Neil Lennon lining the team up on Sunday: 4-4-2…the tried and tested method. The manager will not want his team to be massively outnumbered in midfield as I can see Hibs lining up with 4-5-1 and he will also want a solid back four that he can trust. You can be sure that Celtic will go out all guns blazing and try to find an early goal. However, Lennon may adopt a cautious approach if his team are unable to find a quick goal as both teams grow into the game.
Forster; Lustig, Wilson, Ambrose, Izaguirre; Commons, Brown, Mulgrew, Ledley; Samaras, Hooper
It’s going to be an exciting game for sure and let’s all hope that it’s a great advert for the Scottish game. Of course I fancy Celtic to win the double, however, I am concerned about leaking goals unnecessarily, and therefore also fancy a ‘Goals Galore’ final. I will go for 3-2 Celtic after 90 minutes. Griffiths and Caldwell on the scoresheet for Hibs. Hooper, Ledley and Lustig on the scoresheet for the SPL champions.
What are your predictions for the Scottish Cup Final?