Celtic or Rangers to face Inverness or Falkirk – Scottish Cup talking points
One of the biggest weekends of the Scottish football season takes place with two intriguing Hampden semi-finals.
Inverness and Falkirk meet in the first of the Scottish Cup semi-finals on Saturday before Celtic and Rangers lock horns again 24 hours later.
Here are some of the major talking points ahead of the fixtures.
All and nothing?
Celtic will move to within two victories of the treble if they beat Rangers on Sunday and consign their city rivals to a barren season. With a 13-point lead in the Premiership, Celtic can clinch the title at Tynecastle next weekend, and setting up a final against lower-league opposition would leave Ange Postecoglou on the verge of joining Jock Stein, Martin O’Neill, Brendan Rodgers and Neil Lennon as treble-winning Celtic managers. Rangers boss Michael Beale will get some leeway if they end the season without a trophy given he arrived halfway through but he will be under added pressure to start next term well.
Celtic on a roll
The champions have gone five derby games unbeaten, a sequence which has included three victories this season including the Viaplay Cup final. The run started after Rangers beat the Hoops at the same stage of last campaign and the context of this semi-final is very similar, although Giovanni van Bronckhorst’s Light Blues side were well on their way to the Europa League final in 2022.
Kyogo no go?
Stopping Kyogo Furuhashi, or restricting the service to the Japan forward, could be a key factor if Rangers are to turn the tables. The sharp centre-forward has netted 29 times this season and has notched five goals against Rangers this year alone. Rangers’ main goalscorer over the last six seasons, Alfredo Morelos, has only hit three goals in total against Celtic throughout his time in Scotland and is on 12 so far in what looks likely to be his final season at Ibrox.
Repeat of 2015 final
Saturday’s semi-final sees Inverness and Falkirk reunited eight years after meeting at the last stage of the tournament. Ten-man Caley Thistle triumphed that day to take the trophy back to the Highlands for the only time and consign Falkirk to a third final defeat in 18 years. Both sides have experienced relegation since – Caley Thistle are in the Championship and the Bairns in League One – but both are hoping for promotion via the play-offs. It will be a thrilling finale to the season on two fronts for the winners at Hampden.
The VAR factor
The introduction of video technology to Scottish football has been far from smooth since October but Celtic and Rangers will at least know what to expect, to a certain extent. Falkirk and Inverness will be experiencing the system for the first time as it is only in use in the Premiership and selected cup ties. Inverness manager Billy Dodds admitted he was “wary” of its impact while Falkirk boss John McGlynn has stressed to his players to play to the whistle and not expect decisions to come instantly.