MX23RW : Tuesday, January 25 23:42:46| >> :120:49382:49382:
Dec 20, 2020 at 2.15pm UK at Hampden Park
CelticCeltic
3-3
HeartsHearts
Christie (19'), Edouard (29' pen.), Griffiths (105+1')
Elyounoussi (71'), Ajer (91'), McGregor (107'), Jullien (116')
FT(HT: 2-0)
Boyce (48'), Kingsley (67'), Ginnelly (111')
Gordon (29'), Halliday (33'), Walker (51'), Naismith (62'), Wighton (88'), Smith (105')
Celtic win 4-3 on penalties

Preview: Celtic vs. Hearts - prediction, team news, lineups

Sports Mole previews Saturday's Scottish Cup clash between Celtic and Hearts, including predictions, team news and possible lineups.

Celtic have the chance to win a fourth successive domestic treble when they face Hearts at Hampden Park on Sunday in the delayed Scottish Cup final.

Victory will also go some way towards easing the pressure on Bhoys boss Neil Lennon, who has found his position questioned after his side's faltering form in recent weeks has triggered protests from supporters.


Match preview

Celtic manager Neil Lennon pictured on November 5, 2020© Reuters

Celtic will have the chance to escape from their current woes on Sunday when they take on Championship side Hearts at Hampden Park.

The final is a repeat of the 2019 edition when the Celts beat the Edinburgh outfit 2-1, and it is an important game for the Hoops, who now cannot complete a fifth successive domestic treble after being eliminated from the League Cup in the second round of that competition.

The Hoops have drawn five and lost seven games in all competitions this season, form that has seen them slip 13 points behind Rangers in the league table, and also exit the Europa League at the group stages.

Fans have protested angrily outside Celtic Park, and the club's board has had to reassert its support for the beleaguered manager.

Six losses and four draws in the last 14 games is not the kind of form that is tolerated for long at Celtic Park, but Lennon has reacted to the pressure in typically bullish style by stating that he believes he is the man to turn things round.

Back-to-back wins over Lille in the Europa League and Kilmarnock in the league in the last two games have hinted that the Hoops might have turned the corner.

Hearts manager Robbie Neilson pictured on October 31, 2020© Reuters

Hearts boss Robbie Neilson knows that his team are heavy underdogs going into Sunday's final, but he knows what it takes to win a Scottish Cup final from his playing days.

Back in 2006, Neilson was part of the Jambos side that beat Gretna at Hampden Park, and he achieved the feat alongside two of the senior lynchpins of his current squad.

Defender Christoph Berra and goalkeeper Craig Gordon both played for Hearts that day and the duo will have a major role to play on Sunday if Hearts are serious about causing a shock.

There is plenty of experience in Neilson's squad that will mean his team are unlikely to be overawed by the occasion in Glasgow at the weekend.

Scotland international Steven Naismith will captain the team, which should also include Northern Ireland internationals Liam Boyce and Michael Smith.

Those players possess the kind of experience that will help younger players keep their heads, although the lack of any spectators at Hampden will surely mean that the whole day is much less intense than usual.

Extra motivation for Hearts is sure to be provided by the recent death of former club favourite Marius Zaliukas, who tragically passed away on the same day that the Jambos beat Hibernian in the semi-final.

The Hearts players will all wear the number 26 on their shorts on Sunday in tribute to Zaliukas, who was the skipper when the club last won the Scottish Cup in 2012.

Should Neilson's men pull off a major shock and win the cup then it would be the perfect tribute to the late Lithuanian.

Celtic Scottish Cup form: WWWWWW
Celtic form (all competitions): LLLDWW

Hearts Scottish Cup form: WLWWWW
Hearts form (all competitions): WLWLWW


Team News

Celtic's Greg Taylor celebrates scoring against KR Reykjavik with Scott Brown and Ryan Christie in the Champions League on August 18, 2020© Reuters

Neil Lennon has a few issues to mull over when it comes to picking his Hoops team for Sunday's game, not least when it comes to choosing his goalkeeper.

Northern Irishman Conor Hazard has claimed the spot between the sticks for the Bhoys recently, and Lennon may opt for him over previous incumbent Scott Bain.

Lennon also has a big decision to make in midfield, with stalwart club icon Scott Brown not enjoying his greatest run of form during the Celts' recent slump.

Ismaila Soro has looked good in recent games and Lennon has the option of turning to him as a replacement for the former Scotland captain.

Lennon also needs to consider whether David Turnbull or Ryan Christie should be his main creator in attack, or indeed whether both can play.

The Celts' only injury absentee is winger James Forrest, whose return to action after ankle surgery looks like extending until at least the end of January now.

For Hearts, who sit on top of the Scottish Championship, centre-back John Souttar is a long-term absentee, so veteran Christophe Berra will line up alongside Craig Halkett in the middle of the back four.

Jambos midfielder Loic Damour is out with a foot injury that has seen him sidelined since August.

Celtic possible starting lineup:
Hazard; Ajer, Jullien, Duffy; Frimpong, Soro, McGregor, Taylor; Turnbull, Christie; Edouard

Hearts possible starting lineup:
Gordon; Smith, Halkett, Berra, Kingsley; Haring, Lee; Walker, Naismith, Halliday; Boyce


SM words green background

We say: Celtic 2-1 Hearts

Our prediction for this game is that Celtic will secure the quadruple treble with a 2-1 win over Hearts, but it is likely to be a tough and tight game.

It would not be a surprise if extra time was needed to settle things, with the Jambos sure to be fired up, not least as they look to pay tribute to the late Marius Zaliukas.


Top betting tip

Our expert tipster partners at Sporita.com are predicting over 1.5 goals in this match. Click here to find out what else they are predicting for this game and for more of their tried-and-tested football tips.Over 1.5:data


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Celtic manager Neil Lennon pictured on November 5, 2020
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Tables
TeamPWDLFAGDPTS
1RangersRangers21164144152952
2Celtic21153344123248
3Hearts21116431181339
4Motherwell219482630-431
5Hibernian218582424029
6Aberdeen2284102626028
7Dundee UnitedDundee Utd2174101725-825
8St Mirren2251072132-1125
9Livingston2165101826-823
10Ross County2156103036-621
11Dundee2144131839-2116
12St Johnstone2135131127-1614

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