Rangers and Celtic have the chance to set up an Old Firm showdown in next month’s Scottish League Cup final by taking care of Motherwell and Hibernian this weekend at Hampden Park.
The Glasgow rivals were kept apart in the last-four draw although that may simply have delayed the inevitable as they are both tipped to be successful this weekend.
Rangers will be happy to see Motherwell standing in their path as they look to return to the League Cup final for the first time in six years after they defeated Celtic after extra-time to win in 2011.
The Light Blues – 5/12 to win on Sunday – have won five of their last six games against Motherwell and come into this game in decent form.
Pedro Caixinha’s team have scored 16 goals in five games lately – excluding last month’s defeat to Celtic – and Carlos Pena has been a menacing presence in the final third. That recent form will have boosted confidence, but it won’t be easy against a Motherwell side also going through a useful spell.
They have lost just one of their last six, being edged out by Scottish Premiership joint-leaders Aberdeen, a team they looked impressive against when booking this semi-final berth with a 3-0 win at Fir Park last month.
Three of those last six meetings have ended in Rangers winning 2-1, making that scoreline an appealing proposition for Sunday at 7/1.
Celtic were outplayed by Bayern Munich in midweek although they will fancy their chances of resuming winning ways back on the domestic scene.
The Hoops have clearly excelled under Brendan Rodgers and they have yet to be beaten in Scottish football under his watch.
They were tested severely by Hibs last month in a 2-2 draw at Parkhead in the league, with Calum McGregor scoring late on to preserve Celtic’s unbeaten sequence. That game will have sharpened Celtic minds for this semi-final and they are 4/13 to win.
Neil Lennon’s team have mixed that sort of positive performance, along with a win over Rangers at Ibrox in the league, with some inept showings so far this season, and that is a worry.
Under Lennon, and latterly Ronny Deila, Celtic developed a habit of underperforming at Hampden Park in big games. That is something Rodgers has wiped away, with his Celtic having won all four games at the National Stadium, and done so with authority and freedom to express themselves.
The mental toughness and ability to produce their best when it has been called for has been the hallmark of Celtic under Rodgers so far. They can summon a performance that will leave Hibs flailing, with the Hoops fancied at 20/21 to overcome a one-goal handicap on Saturday.
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