The Scottish Football Association Challenge Cup, or ‘Scottish Cup’ as it’s commonly known, has reached the fifth round stage and just sixteen teams remain in the competition. We’ve already been North of the border with our preview of the League Cup this week, and while we’re tipping Aberdeen to come up trumps in that one, Celtic look like a stand out bet to complete a league and cup double by taking this one.
The Fifth Round
The fixtures of the fifth round are set to be played over the weekend of Saturday the 7th of February and Sunday the 8th. The winners of these ties will be in the quarter-finals, and just three games from lifting the trophy.
Dundee v Celtic
Falkirk v Brechin
Hibernian v Arbroath
Partick Thistle v Inverness CT
Queen of the South v St Johnstone
Spartans FC v Berwick
Stranraer v Dundee United
Rangers v Raith Rovers
Celtic are the most successful club side in Scottish Cup history, with an overwhelming 36 titles to their name, closely followed by Rangers with 33. They have a great chance of completing the league and cup double that they last achieved two years ago, in 2012/13, and after a rocky start to the season they now look well on track. Manager Ronny Deila has ridden the storm of his early tenure, and his team have gone from strength to strength over the last few months. They’ve won 8 of the last 10 in the league to rise to the top of the table, and they beat Hearts 4-0 in the previous round of this competition. They’re in the semi-final of the League Cup where they have a tasty Old Firm derby against Rangers to look forward to, and they’re in the last 32 of the Europa League where they’ve been drawn against Inter Milan. It promises to be an exciting end to the season for the Celtic faithful, and they’ll expect to finish it with at least one or two more trophies in the cabinet.
With the best will in the world it’s difficult to see Celtic winning the Europa League, but the prospect of a domestic treble is on the horizon, and they have every chance of achieving it. However, these achievements are rare in any league, and it’s also possible that Celtic will come unstuck in one of those competitions.
It would be unusual for the winner of this competition to come from outside of the Premiership, and the top teams have dominated for many years. On that basis we can rule out Rangers, Hibernian, Falkirk, Queen of the South, Raith Rovers, Brechin, Arbroath, Stranraer, Berwick and Spartans. It may seem rash to rule out all of those sides, particularly Rangers and Hibs, who both have very recent top level experience. However, the fact remains that the winner almost always comes from the top division, and it’s hard to see any of those sides beating Celtic if they were to meet them.
Dundee United – +600 with Boylesports
Dundee United could be Celtic’s biggest danger, and they’re the highest-ranking side left in the competition after the Hoops and Inverness. It’s been an impressive season for the Tangerines, and they’re 4th in table just six points behind the league leaders. They’ve also got the small matter of the League Cup semi-final against Aberdeen coming up this weekend. They beat fellow Premiership side Motherwell in the fourth round, and face a tricky away tie at League One leaders Stranraer in this round. They can probably be fancied to get through that match, and will already be eyeing up a place in the final.
St Johnstone are 6th in the Premiership, and they’re also having a good time of it this season. They face mid-table Championship side Queen of the South away from home, and although it’s a potential banana skin, St Johnstone will also fancy their chances of a quarter-final berth.
Inverness are performing above themselves this season, and currently lie third in the Premiership table, only four points behind Celtic at the top. They’ve won 7 in 10 in the league but face a tough away match in the fifth round at fellow Premiership team Partick Thistle. If they can navigate a way through that tie, they have as good a chance as anyone, and probably make most appeal of the outsiders.
Partick welcome Inverness next weekend, but they’re in the opposite position – struggling in 9th in the Premiership with just 2 victories in their last 10 league games. They knocked out a good side in Hamilton in the last round though, and will be no pushover on home ground. They’re in no danger of relegation, and have little hope of troubling the top half of the table, so the cup is probably all they have left to play for this season. That in itself could make them a dangerous side.
Dundee – +4000 with Bet365
Dundee took the scalp of 2nd placed Premiership side, Aberdeen, in the last round and they’re up to 7th in the table after a run of five without defeat. However, they welcome Celtic in the early kick off on the Saturday, and that’s why they’re such a huge price. They’ll take heart from the fact that they held Celtic to a 1-1 draw back in August, but that was when the league leaders were in much worse form, and Celtic have since beaten Dundee 2-1 at home. A draw might be the best they can hope for, but Celtic should win a replay even if they don’t manage to get the job done at the first time of asking.
They may not be the biggest price, but Celtic will only get increasingly shorter as they progress through the competition. They are as short as -1900 in places to win the Premiership, and with just four matches to win to lift this trophy, they represent a little bit of value at the current odds.
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