SPL

Inverness stand in way of a 41st title for Celtic – Scottish Cup talking points

By Sports Desk June 02, 2023

Celtic face Inverness in the Scottish Cup final on Saturday in a match with numerous discussion points around the game.

The Hoops are aiming for a 41st triumph in the competition while Caley Thistle bid to make it two wins from two final appearances.

Here are some of the key issues ahead of the Hampden encounter.

The last dance?

“We have done this dance a few times this year,” said Ange Postecoglou after being quizzed over reports that Tottenham had made him their top candidate for their managerial vacancy. The Celtic manager has been linked with numerous Premier League jobs this season – Leeds, Everton, Brighton, Crystal Palace, Leicester and Chelsea to name a few – and he pointed out there had been another favourite for the Spurs job last week. The Australian stressed that nothing would distract him from preparing for Saturday’s game but Celtic fans approach the final with anxious thoughts over the future.

Treble chance

Postecoglou is looking to emulate Jock Stein, Martin O’Neill, Brendan Rodgers and Neil Lennon in securing a clean sweep of domestic honours in the one season in what has been classed as a world-record eighth treble. Postecoglou is determined to write that chapter of the club’s history and make it a fifth treble in seven seasons to underline Celtic’s dominance in Scotland.

Will lightning strike again?

Celtic must overcame opponents who have caused them all sorts of problems in the Scottish Cup, since their first meeting in 2000 when First Division Caley Thistle won 3-1 at Parkhead in their sixth season in the league, costing John Barnes his job as Hoops manager. John Robertson’s then top-flight side repeated the feat three years later, three days after Celtic had won at Anfield on their way to the UEFA Cup final. A hat-trick of shocks was completed in the 2015 semi-finals as Ronny Deila’s side saw their treble hopes collapse in a controversial 3-2 defeat. John Hughes’ team went on to lift the trophy. Celtic have won four of the seven Scottish Cup meetings but have twice needed to come from behind.

Rested or rusty?

Caley Thistle finished sixth in the Championship, with a late winner from Ayr’s Josh Mullin ending their play-off hopes in the final minutes of the season. Billy Dodds’ side have not played a competitive fixture since that May 5 game, a friendly against Dean Shiels’ Dungannon Swifts side the only time they have appeared.

Kyogo or no go?

Celtic top goalscorer Kyogo Furuhashi is a fitness doubt after coming off worse in a 50-50 with Aberdeen goalkeeper Kelle Roos last weekend. The Japan forward, who has 33 goals this season, did not train until Friday but history would suggest he will declare himself fit. The 28-year-old scored a match-winning double against Hibernian in last season’s League Cup final despite nursing a hamstring injury which would soon rule him out for more than three months. He also notched both Celtic goals in this season’s final against Rangers.

European dream

Caley Thistle will guarantee European group stage football if they win – they will go into the Europa League play-offs and drop into the Conference League group if they lose. Aberdeen and Hibernian fans will be cheering on Celtic. The Dons will get the Europa League play-off spot if Celtic win but enter the Conference League qualifiers otherwise, while Hibs need a Hoops win to qualify for Europe. It is all or nothing for Caley Thistle with the Scottish Cup runners-up no longer getting a European place.

Cup reprieve

Inverness could find themselves featuring in quiz questions for decades if they pull off a shock, as the team that won the Scottish Cup despite losing in an earlier round. Caley Thistle were beaten 2-0 by Queen’s Park in a rearranged fourth-round tie but the Spiders were expelled from the competition for fielding an ineligible player – Euan Henderson had been signed on loan from Hearts after the original date. Inverness seized their second chance by defeating Premiership sides Livingston and Kilmarnock before a 3-0 semi-final win against Falkirk.

Kick-off controversy

In a break with tradition, the game will kick off at 5.30pm after the Scottish Football Association elected to make way for the Manchester derby FA Cup final in a bid to maximise television exposure. The decision disappointed both clubs and Inverness blamed the later kick-off as the reason they handed back 2,500 tickets.

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