There has been one, and only one, club that has succeeded in flying the flag for Scottish club football, despite a disastrous showing in European competition. The Celtic Football Club of Glasgow, under the direction of Brendan Rogers, has run the tables domestically, having won the Scottish League Cup and the Scottish Premiership, the latter by a country mile. Now, the Bhoys will look to wrap up a historic treble by winning the 2016-17 William Hill Scottish Cup at historic Hampden Park on May 27.
Scott Sinclair is Celtic’s top goalscorer with 20 goals this season. Moussa Dembele has also been a key producer of goals with 17, while Stuart Armstrong has 13 to his credit. Also factoring into things is Leigh Griffiths with eight goals. Patrick Roberts is Celtic’s top provider with eight assists, while James Forrest has seven. Sinclair, Armstrong and Kieran Tierney have six assists on the year.
Celtic started their campaign in the fourth round of the Scottish Cup, shutting out Albion Robers 3-0 at the Excelsior Stadium on Jan. 22. Sinclair (30′), Dembele (77′) and Armstrong (90′) scored for the Bhoys. Inverness Caledonian Thistle were a more straightforward affair at Celtic Park on Feb. 11 in the fifth round. Dembele (45′, 50′, 59′) scored a hat trick and Mikael Lustig (20′), Tierney (86′) and Scott Brown (90′ + 1′) scored for Celtic in a 6-0 thumping.
In the quarterfinals, also at Celtic Park on Mar. 5, Celtic smashed St. Mirren 4-1. After a slow start that saw Celtic on the back foot after a 13th minute goal from Harry Davis, the hosts battled back in the second half with goals from Lustig (58′), Sinclair (59′), Dembele (68′) and Griffiths (78′). In a gritty semifinal showdown at Hampden Parek on Apr. 23, Celtic shut out Old Firm rivals Rangers 2-0 on an 11th minute goal from Callum McGregor and a 51st minute penalty from Sinclair.
Celtic’s opponents are Derek McInnes’s Aberdeen Football Club, who look all but set to finish second to Celtic in the Scottish Premiership with a record of 21-48-8 (67 points). Celtic, as they currently stand, are 29-4-0 (91 points). The Dons have had a productive year, having been led by the scoring tandem of Adam Rooney and Niall McGinn. Rooney has 11 goals on the season while McGinn has 10. Jonathan Hayes (seven goals) and Andrew Considine (six goals) have been doing work as well. Hayes is the Dons’ top provider with 11 assists, while Rooney and McGinn each have six.
Like Celtic, Aberdeen started their season in the fourth round. At their home ground, the Pittodrie Stadium, they opened things up with a 4-0 rout of Stranraer on Jan. 21. Rooney (30′, 50′) and McGinn (35′, 54′) bagged hat tricks. In the fifth round, against Ross County at Victoria Park in Dingwall, Shay Logan scored in the 87th minute to help Aberdeen escape 1-0 winners on Feb. 11.
Aberdeen replicated the same exact scoreline on Mar. 5 at home to Partick Thistle in the quarterfinals. Graeme Shinnie was the hero in the 43rd minute. That set up a date on Apr. 22 against the defending cup holders, Hibernian, at Hampden Park. Rooney (1′) and Ryan Christie (25′) opened the scoring for Aberdeen but Hibernian bounced back on goals from Grant Holt (36′) and Dylan McGeouch (60′). A own goal from Darren McGregor in the 86th minute proved to be the difference as Aberdeen backed their way into the final, 3-2.
It’s going to be an exciting cup final in the heart of Scotland between two proud clubs, the top two teams in the country. The Bhoys in Green vs. the Dons in Red. Celtic vs. Aberdeen in the 2016-17 William Hill Scottish Cup Final. Evan Murray of the Guardian believes that the key to Celtic winning the treble will be Rodgers finding a solution to working with Griffiths and Dembele.
Despite being the master of all before him, Brendan Rodgers hasn’t quite mastered one Celtic dilemma; how to play Moussa Dembélé and Leigh Griffiths consistently in the same team. The issue was apparent at Hampden against Rangers after Dembélé’s enforced removal through injury, Griffiths stepping from the bench to replace the France Under-21 player. Griffiths duly won the penalty that confirmed Celtic’s success and provided the kind of threat which was evident last season, when the Scotland international notched 40 goals. Griffiths has had struggles with fitness and form since then but, certainly in a Scottish context, remains a constant threat to opponents. Dembélé’s status and ability are hardly up for debate. Yet Griffiths, who is still only 26, has plenty to offer. It seems a shame that Celtic have developed a policy of one or the other.
And here are your ten Bold Predictions for this contest.
- At least four cards will be issued.
- A player will be sent off.
- Joe Lewis will make at least four saves.
- Adam Rooney will score for Aberdeen.
- Scott Sinclair will score for Celtic.
- Leigh Griffiths will score for Celtic.
- At least 40 fouls will be whistled.
- Niall McGinn will score for Aberdeen.
- Stuart Armstrong will score for Celtic.
- Craig Gordon will make at least five saves.
Celtic 3, Aberdeen 2