CHRIS SUTTON reckons Philippe Clement is facing DISASTROUS consequences if he fails for a fourth time to outwit Brendan Rodgers when the managers go head to head in the Scottish Cup Final at Hampden this afternoon.

The Belgian boss was lauded by many observers after taking over from the floundering Michael Beale at Ibrox in mid-October.

Clement suffered his first domestic defeat at the eleventh hurdle during his derby debut meeting with Rodgers at Parkhead on December 30 when goals from Paulo Bernardo and Kyogo Furuhashi gave the champions a vital 2-1 triumph.

A stoppage-time strike from Rabbi Matondo rescued the former AS Monaco head coach in the 3-3 stalemate in Govan in April, but there was no way back in the east end of Glasgow a fortnight ago when Matt O’Riley opened the scoring and John Lundstram, later red-carded, diverted a Daizen Maeda left-wing cross for the second in the hosts’ 2-1 victory.

GLASGOW BELONGS TO ME…Brendan Rodgers enjoys another derby triumph.

Any slim chance Clement had of adding the Premiership title to the League Cup was obliterated that afternoon as Rodgers’ men sealed the third successive crown the following midweek with a runaway 5-0 romp against Kilmarnock at Rugby Park.

A 3-2 win over St Mirren on Trophy Day in Paradise a week ago saw Celtic ease to their twelfth crown in 13 years with an impressive eight-point advantage over Clement and Co who were left in the slipstream of the Irishman’s side when they hit the accelerator.

Former Hoops goal hero Sutton believes doubts have been creeping in about the ability of the one-time Brugge and Genk boss with his inability to put one over his opposite number.

The ex-England international forward said: “Brendan Rodgers really wants to win this Scottish Cup Final. So does Philippe Clement. But the difference between the pair is that the Belgian really NEEDS it.

“When I assess the potential fall-out from this encounter, I can’t help but feel it’s just about added gains for Rodgers, whereas Clement has much more to lose.

“The Celtic manager has been riding the wave in the past few days. Winning the Premiership title is the one that matters in Scotland. For so many reasons. Straight away, being the champions gives the No.1 tag and, in any country, that title comes ahead of any other success in the Cup competitions.

IT TAKES TWO…Brendan Rodgers and Philippe Clement embrace after the 3-3 draw at Ibrox in April.

“The fact it also provides automatic qualification again into the group stages of the Champions League just adds to the prize, especially with the new format next term which gives more guaranteed games and more cash.

“That provides Rodgers with more to spend in the summer as he looks to build the squad and, at the same time, it has kept that money away from Ibrox.

“Clement needs to make quality signings and the additional funds from reaching the group stages would have been crucial. Of course, Rangers might still get there. But you can’t guarantee it now and that means you can’t really budget for it.

“Not if you are being sensible, anyway.”

Sutton, speaking to the Daily Record, continued: “So, in that respect, Rodgers has already won the big battle. With that Premiership trophy tucked away, there is less stress on the Final for Celtic’s boss.

“Of course, he’s desperate to win. He wants a double and so do the supporters. But, if Celtic lose, although those fans will be disappointed, they will still believe in their manager going forward.

BEGINNING OF THE END…Kyogo Furuhashi fires past the lunge of Connor Goldson as his effort heads for the back of Jack Butland’s net for the winning goal in December – bringing to a halt Philippe Clement’s 10-game unbeaten domestic run.

“Rodgers has delivered the one that counts in a season where it could have slipped away and, in doing so, he has proven he is still a master in the ‘Old Firm’ fixture.

“With three wins and a draw from the four matches and 13 wins from 17 overall, Celtic’s fans know they go into next season with a manager who is capable of dealing with their biggest rivals and that means he is not going to be doubted going forward.

“That’s in stark contrast to the feelings which surround Clement now and will deepen if he loses.

“When Clement walked into the building, the prospect of winning two trophies by the end of May would have been an exciting one for the fans and there is no doubt adding a Scottish Cup to his Viaplay Cup would represent a fine first effort.

“But the doubts have really started to creep into the minds of some fans with the way the games against Celtic have gone under the Belgian.”

Looking at the most recent failure two weeks ago, Sutton added: “Rangers were tepid, didn’t get started until 2-0 down, lost discipline with a man sent off and there were punters questioning both his starting selection and also his subs that day.

“This came after Clement’s strange claims of disrespect from Rodgers over the fun stuff. It added to a questionable overall effort.

THE FIST OF TRIUMPH…Brendan Rodgers acknowledges the celebrating Celtic fans after sealing the team’s third successive title.

“The bottom line is this. For all Rangers seemed to be making progress under Clement, they finished more points behind Celtic in the table than they were when Beale was axed.

“And the simple fact is that no Rangers manager can get away with not beating Celtic in big games.

“Lose it and that’ll be four on the bounce without a win. With a first Premiership meeting of next season being at Celtic Park and the chance for that record to be extended to five straight off the 2024/25 bat, that could be disastrous for the Belgian.

“It is for that reason that I feel Clement needs this piece of silverware much more than Rodgers does.

“If Rodgers doesn’t get it, he’ll still move on as the champion with his reputation intact.

“If Clement doesn’t get it, his reputation of not being able to deliver against Celtic will just build further and make for a very uncomfortable summer.”

*DON’T miss the unbeatable match report and best action images from Celtic v Rangers this afternoon – only in your champion CQN.

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