Celtic must prove there are no ill-effects from a midweek hiding in Paris if they are to overcome Motherwell and grab the first domestic silverware of the season in Scotland.
The teams will lock horns at Hampden Park on Sunday for what promises to be a poignant League Cup Final affair, with Celtic and Motherwell coming together pre-game to remember their former play Phil O’Donnell.
Brendan Rodgers’ team were give the run-around by Paris St-Germain in the Champions League on Wednesday evening in the French capital, yet they won’t be the first or last to suffer that fate against Unai Emery’s expensively-assembled firing squad.
Such are the disparities of the modern game that Celtic will slip quickly from being the have-nots to the haves on Sunday back on a domestic scene where they’ve been unbowed for well over a year now.
Celtic, some will argue, have been guilty at times in Europe of being too agreeable to superior opposition in their approach, though Rodgers is not deemed likely to change his philosophy soon.
Motherwell are less likely to adopt a similar approach at Hampden, where the niceties will end at kick-off.
Motherwell are expected to try and ruffle the Hoops and live up to their billing as Steelmen. Such tactics were hard to miss as Steve Robinson’s side got past Rangers in the semi-finals last month, with the Ibrox club more than aggrieved by Motherwell’s rough- and-ready attitude.
Rodgers even found time to sympathise with Pedro Caixinha, since axed by Rangers, in suggesting Motherwell had gone beyond lawful means in their approach, perhaps in a bid to try and make an early statement to this weekend’s match officials.
Due to fixture rescheduling, Sunday’s game marks the beginning of a Celtic versus Motherwell trilogy and recent results suggest Motherwell’s best hopes of joy will come on home soil.
Celtic have won the last seven encounters between the sides. A year ago in a league game at Fir Park, Motherwell led 2-0 and 3-2 before going down 4-3. They came as close as any Scottish team to puncturing Celtic’s invincible season.
It has been a different story in Glasgow, where Celtic have scored 16 goals without reply in four games against the Steelmen recently. With the Hampden surface in good shape, the underdogs face a tough game. Motherwell can ruffle some feathers, but Celtic are likely to come away with the cup and the Hoops to win with both teams to score is 27/20.
If Motherwell are to prosper, the League Cup’s joint-leading scorer Louis Moult will be crucial and he trades at 9/1 (first goal) and 12/5 (anytime scorer) in Sunday’s final for those sensing a potential upset.
The feeling persists that the goals will flow on Sunday, one way or another. But it is hard to see anything but a Celtic win, and they are 11/10 to do so with over 3.5 goals scored in 90 minutes.
Aberdeen, Hibs and Rangers all lost last weekend, ensuring the Premiership is no easy place for betting this weekend looking at the fixtures.
Derek McInnes’ Dons are most fancied of that trio to get back to winning ways and they have a great chance to do so at 5/6 when they face a Kilmarnock outfit with less goals scored than any other team in Scotland’s top flight so far this season (11 in 14 games) at Rugby Park on Saturday.
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