The key issues surrounding the Scottish Cup final
Celtic face Hearts in Saturday’s William Hill Scottish Cup final.
Here Press Association Sport’s Andy Newport takes a look at the big talking points ahead of their Hampden showdown.
One last push for the ‘triple treble’
The last three years have been nectar to the Celtic support, from the Invincible campaign during Brendan Rodgers’ first year in Glasgow to last season’s ‘double treble’ triumph. The trophies have continued to roll in and having secured the Ladbrokes Premiership title and Betfred Cup, the Hoops now stand just 90 minutes away from completing a feat that is unlikely ever to be repeated again.
Is this Neil Lennon’s last stand?
Parkhead chiefs were left with a dilemma when Rodgers left them in the lurch to join Leicester but bringing Lennon back in a caretaker capacity proved to be the least disruptive option. His first task was to see the team over the line in the race for their eighth straight title and while performances have hardly glistened, the objective was met. Now he must ensure the Hoops do not trip up on the final hurdle this weekend if he wants to have any hope of making his interim appointment permanent.
Craig Levein’s trophy quest
Amazing as it sounds given he has operated at the top level for most of his 38 years in the game as both a player and a manager, but the Hearts boss has so far never got his hands on a major piece of silverware. He has come close, most memorably in 1986 when his Jambos side missed out on both the league title and Scottish Cup inside the space of a disastrous week for the Tynecastle faithful. In 2008, the Dundee United team he was managing were denied League Cup glory by Rangers on penalties. Might this finally be the former Scotland manager’s year?
Fitness worries ease
Both teams have had their injury problems to contend with in recent weeks. Lennon has rested James Forrest and Kieran Tierney over the past couple of games amid concerns over hamstring and hernia issues respectively but will be in the team alongside skipper Scott Brown, who has shrugged off rumours of a foot injury. Oliver Burke has a knee issue which may yet keep him out but the only other first-team regular out of action is Ryan Christie. Hearts have had an injury nightmare this season, with Olly Lee joining a list of confirmed casualties already containing the names of Steven Naismith, Callumn Morrison, Aidan Keena, Ben Garuccio and Demetri Mitchell. Levein is confident, however, that Uche Ikpeazu, Peter Haring and Arnaud Djoum will be ready.
History favours Hearts
This weekend’s clash will be the fourth meeting of the clubs in the final of Scotland’s premier cup competition, with the Jambos holding the advantage on two wins to one. The first final showdown came in 1901 as goals from Bobby Walker and Charles Thomson plus a Mark Bell double ensured Hearts edged a 4-3 thriller. Two strikes from Peter Somers plus a Willie Orr goal allowed Celtic to level up six years later. The most recent final face-off came 63 years ago when Ian Crawford’s brace, added to another goal from Alfie Conn – father of the future Rangers and Celtic star of the same name – meant the cup went back to Tynecastle after a 3-1 success.