FA Cup Semi-Finals & Premier League Matchday 31: Pochettino’s Men can Make History
Scottish Cup semifinal weekend is always one to watch out for. They’re games to mark in your calendar, with this weekend’s matches between Motherwell and Aberdeen, and Celtic and Rangers, sure to catch the imagination. For all four clubs involved, these are season-defining ties.
For Celtic, this is a chance to take another big step towards a second successive Treble-winning season. For Rangers, the opportunity to get one over their fiercest rivals and move closer to winning their first major honour in years is a big one.
Motherwell will be looking to cap a successful season with a second cup final appearance, while Aberdeen will have their sights set on another final meeting with Celtic, who beat them to both the League Cup and the Scottish Cup last season. There’s also the Scottish Premiership tie between Hamilton and Kilmarnock to look forward to. Here are five storylines to follow this weekend.
With a 13-point lead at the top of the Scottish Premiership table, the League Cup already in their possession and a Scottish Cup semi-final this weekend, Celtic’s supremacy this season is in no doubt. But Brendan Rodgers’ side haven’t been at their best recently. Last week, they were held at home by Dundee, then edged their way past Hamilton unconvincingly. This is about as vulnerable as Celtic have been under Rodgers and if Rangers can overcome their own troubles, they will stand a chance of an upset at Hampden on Sunday.
Last season, Aberdeen made the final of the League Cup and the Scottish Cup only to be beaten by the same side in both, Celtic. They are determined to avoid the same fate this season, but the odds are against the Dons as they face Motherwell in the semifinals on Saturday. Derek McInnes will be without Graeme Shinnie, Kenny McLean and Shay Logan, who are all missing through suspension. This will be a real test of the Dons’ depth and of McInnes’ management. If he finds a way to guide his side through this test with so many key players missing, it will be a mark of his coaching quality.
Aberdeen to win 21/20
Every season Hamilton Accies are tipped for the drop, and every season they prove their critics wrong. Not so long ago, Martin Canning’s side looked to be in trouble, but an upturn in form saw them put distance between themselves and the bottom two. A win over Kilmarnock on Saturday would see them all but secure their place in the top flight for another year. A seven-point gap on second bottom would relieve the pressure at New Douglas Park.
Dave King gave the clearest indication yet that Graeme Murty will be replaced this summer when he said this week that his priority is to appoint a manager who can deliver “immediate success.” Some names have been mentioned – most notably, Frank de Boer – but for now, this weekend’s Scottish Cup semi-final gives Rangers the chance to establish a genuine platform for next season, whoever ultimately takes charge. Rangers have undoubtedly closed some of the gap on Celtic this season. Next season, in a way, starts now.
When the big teams come calling, when the big occasions dawn, Motherwell, more often than not, show up. They have claimed big results against Celtic and Rangers this season, including an away win over their Scottish Cup semi-final opponents Aberdeen back in November. On Saturday, Stephen Robinson’s men will face another big game. The Steelmen have enjoyed a successful season, but don’t have the results to show for that, missing out on a place in the top six. A place in the Scottish Cup final would give them the chance to rectify that.