In Scotland, the semi-finals of the League Cup take centre stage this weekend and the second of those is on Sunday when Celtic play St Mirren at Hampden. This is the third year in a row that Celtic have reached this stage of the competition and although they reach the final on both of those occasions, they have not won it since 2009 when they defeated Rangers after Extra time. The Glasgow club could not be in better form heading into this match. They have dismantled both Hearts and Dundee United in the last week, scoring eight goals over the two games and conceding just one. The winter break certainly looks to have freshened things up and it’s little surprise as the squad had been on the go since the middle of July playing in Champions League qualifiers. The next six weeks are crucial as Celtic will play in four competitions and Sunday’s match is the next step in their quest for a domestic treble.
St Mirren will be looking forward to this game as it’s the first time they’ve managed to get beyond the quarter finals of a cup competition since reaching the final of the League Cup back in 2010. It was a painful defeat for the club as they lost out to a Rangers side who were reduced to nine men. Danny Lennon will be hoping he can take that next step and secure the trophy but before that they have to try and find a way of defeating a side who they have a terrible record against in recent times. Lennon will take solace from his side’s recent form; before last weekend’s defeat at home to Ross County, St Mirren were undefeated in four, winning two of those games. Although they will be massive underdogs, they will attempt to take advantage of a Celtic side who have a poor record at Hampden under their current manager.
Neil Lennon will be aware of the aforementioned poor record at the National Stadium so it’s unlikely he’ll make too many changes to his starting eleven. He will stick with his tried and trusted and that includes Gary Hooper. The Englishman has been in outstanding form recently and its little surprise that he has been linked with multiple Premier League sides. His goals have been vital to Celtic since arriving in 2010 and Lennon will be desperate to hold on to him for a bit longer yet.
St Mirren don’t have a Gary Hooper to call upon but they have players who have played in occasions such as semi finals and finals, some even having medals to their names. Steven Thompson is one of those having played with Rangers and Cardiff, winning leagues and cups with the former and playing in play-off games when down south. His experience will be vital on Sunday and it’s fair to say that he will have to be at the top of his game if St Mirren are to prevail.
The Paisley club have a horrific record against Neil Lennon’s Celtic side. They have lost all eight games against the current SPL Champions and have not even managed a goal – it’s been complete domination. I expect that to continue on Sunday with another comfortably victory for the Hoops.
Celtic (-1) to beat St Mirren 21/20 @ Stan James