“Feeling more confident than any time in the last five years” was the sentiment expressed to me by a Newco fan this morning. And with some reason. They have gone two months without defeat, while Celtic’s blistering runs of successive wins stopped; we’ve won three and drawn three of our last six.
Reasons for any marked change in results are usually varied. With the league won, Celtic rested players, while others were injured. Opponents have also paid attention to their Scott Sinclair Problem. Stop Scott getting the ball and you inhibit Celtic’s most potent danger.
You also have to factor in the reality that Brendan Rodgers has given 52 competitive pre-match team talks. There are only so many times you can vocabularise your rallying call before its effects diminish.
The contrast in the other Hampden dressing room will be stark. Brother Pedro’s accent will still appear fresh to his players, never mind his message. His tactical talks and implorations of effort will seem innovative, whether they are or not. For these reasons, and more, Newco players will fear nothing on Sunday.
This game will be more straightforward that Ross County last week. We know Newco are there to win, to knock us out of the cup, stop our Invincibility Quest and reach their second major cup final. We’ll not face 10 men behind the ball.
Having said all of this, you and me will both be stunned if Celtic don’t prevail. We have the better players, the better manager, we’ve faced many and varied challenges this season and come through impressively.
Dembele, Griffiths and Rogic are back and available. The manager has choices on who to play, and options to change the game, or freshen things up later.
That same Newco fan this morning accused me of selective memory, with good reason, when I said I couldn’t remember Ugo Ehiogu playing for Rangers. It was no less alarming to hear a fit and active man of 44 died so suddenly. Condolences to his loved ones. There but……….