Preview: Celtic vs. Inverness Caledonian Thistle

Preview: Celtic vs. Inverness Caledonian Thistle

The 150th Scottish Cup final takes place at Hampden Park on Saturday evening as Premiership champions Celtic do battle with Championship outfit Inverness Caledonian Thistle.

While the Hoops are seeking to win the domestic treble for the fifth time in seven seasons, Caley Thistle are hoping to pull off a giant-killing and win their first trophy in eight years.

Two years on from a trophyless season under Neil Lennon, Celtic have re-emerged as the dominant force in Scottish football and they are seeking to lift their fifth trophy since the appointment of Ange Postecoglou, who insists he remains focused on his current job amid speculation over a potential summer move to Tottenham Hotspur.

The Hoops have stormed to back-to-back Premiership titles under the Australian and clinched this year’s crown with four games to spare, finishing seven points clear of Old Firm rivals Rangers, while they have also won successive Scottish League Cups, lifting this season’s trophy courtesy of a 2-1 triumph over the Gers at Hampden Park in February.

Celtic momentarily, yet understandably, took their foot off the gas earlier this month and picked up just one point from a possible nine available in the top flight, losing 3-0 and 4-2 against Rangers and Hibernian respectively either side of a 2-2 home draw with St Mirren.

However, the Hoops returned to winning ways in emphatic fashion ahead of Saturday’s final, as they recorded a thumping 5-0 victory over Aberdeen in their final league fixture last weekend before lifting the Premiership trophy in front of a stunning mosaic-filled Parkhead crowd.

Postecoglou’s treble-chasing side are now hoping to follow in the footsteps of Celtic Women who beat rivals Rangers 2-0 last Sunday to win the first-ever Women’s Scottish Cup final held at Hampden Park, as well as Celtic Under-18s who also beat Rangers courtesy of a thrilling 6-5 victory after extra time to lift the Scottish Youth Cup.

Celtic, who have beaten Greenock Morton, St Mirren, Hearts and Rangers en route to Saturday’s final, will be confident of winning a record-extending 41st Scottish Cup as they have won each of their last nine finals in the competition across the last two decades, while they have also come out on top in their last three meetings with Inverness by an aggregate score of 13-0.

Inverness will be competing in their first major final since winning the Scottish Cup in 2014-15, and they are the first team outside of the Premiership to reach the competition’s showpiece event for seven years.

Condemning Celtic to their first Hampden Park defeat since 2012 is a tall order for Caley Thistle, but they did beat the Hoops 3-2 after extra time en route to lifting the Scottish Cup eight years ago, while they have already knocked out two Premiership teams this term, securing a 3-0 fifth-round win over Livingston and a 2-1 quarter-final victory against Kilmarnock.

Billy Dodds’s side have also successfully navigated their way past Stirling Albion, Queen’s Park and Falkirk this season, beating the latter 3-0 in the semi-finals at Hampden Park courtesy of goals from Billy McKay (2) and Daniel MacKay to set up Saturday’s showdown with Celtic.

Inverness have had a four-week break from competitive action since suffering a 2-1 home defeat to Ayr United in their final Championship match of the season on May 5 – a result that cost them a place in the playoffs as they ended the campaign in sixth and just two points behind the top four.

Dodds’s squad were given nine days off to recharge their batteries before returning to training in preparation for Saturday’s final, and in a competition “about miracles and fairytales”, the Caley Thistle boss is hopeful of pulling off a seismic upset against Celtic, citing Darvel’s shock fourth-round win over Aberdeen as inspiration.

Celtic Scottish Cup form:

Celtic form (all competitions):

Inverness Caledonian Thistle Scottish Cup form:

Inverness Caledonian Thistle form (all competitions):

We say: Celtic 4-1 Inverness Caledonian Thistle
Celtic are understandably the firm favourites to come out on top and clinch another domestic treble, but a well-rested and fired-up Inverness outfit cannot be entirely written off this weekend.

The potential absence of Furuhashi would be a major blow for the Hoops, but they have several other attacking threats that should be capable of firing Postecoglou’s side to a comfortable victory at Hampden Park.

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