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CELTIC’S SCOTTISH CUP FEARS

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THERE are genuine fears Celtic will not get the opportunity to defend their Scottish Cup this season.

The Hoops made history when they won the national trophy for the fourth year in a row when they completed the phenomenal quadruple treble with their dramatic penalty-kick shoot-out over Hearts in the delayed 2019/20 showpiece showdown at Hampden five days before Christmas.

The Final had been held over from the previous term with Neil Lennon’s men due to face Aberdeen in the semi-final in April.

That tie eventually took place at the start of November when goals from Ryan Christie and Mohamed Elyounoussi set up the silverware confrontation with the Tyenastle men, an action replay of the previous season when two goals from Odsonne Edouard gave the Parkhead men a 2-1 triumph to complete the treble treble.

However, it could be that the Scottish Cup campaign will be SCRAPPED amid fears the competition could again fall victim to the coronavirus pandemic.

Fixture congestion caused by the lower league football shutdown means 12 ties in the second round of the tournament are yet to be played, with the third stage on hold until further notice.

The holders are due to play Arbroath or Falkirk when those two sides eventually complete their fixture.

The suspension of all football outwith the top two tiers means any hope of matches taking place before the end of this month is highly unlikely, if not impossible, which will leave the organisers scrambling to cram the competition into an already-packed fixture schedule, according to a report in Glasgow Live.

Celtic still have two league games in hand over Steven Gerrard’s Ibrox side and face fitting in six Premiership encounters before the end of February with matches due against Motherwell at Parkhead on Saturday which will be followed by a midweek visit to St Mirren and then Sunday trip to Perth to take on St Johnstone. They play the first of two confrontations against Aberdeen on Wednesday 17th and again 10 days later. In between, there is a meeting with Ross County in Dingwall on Sunday 27th.

The 2020/21 competition has no trophy sponsor after bookmaker William Hill’s agreement ended last year, but television rights with broadcasters BBC and Premier Sports have already been signed off to the tune of around £5million.

That could see the SFA face a fine if the competition is abruptly called off and there is also the further complication of Scotland’s participation in this summer’s European Championships with two games scheduled for Hampden.

Steve Clarke’s men are due to take on the Czech Republic on Monday June 14 and Croatia the following Tuesday. In between, there is a trip to Wembley for a clash with England on Friday the 18th.

The Euro ties leave the SFA bosses with a massive headache in attempting to have the national competition completed with the Cup Final scheduled for May 8.

It could mean the historic tournament being put on ice for the second successive season with Celtic’s only realistic chance of silverware this season – and their bid for a remarkable fifth successive Scottish Cup – being held over until later in the year.

On the plus side, if the Scottish football bosses follow past protocols, the Hoops will be able to field players in the Cup who have not been registered for the current competition.

Jonny Hayes was a Hoops player when last season’s tourney kicked off, but was allowed to play for the Dons in the last-four crunch encounter against Lennon’s side.

One way or another, it’s another enormous headache for Scotland’s football rulers.

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