But first, the bad news. It’s very likely that by the end of the day we won’t be top of the league. At lunch time, Hearts are hosting the team that are just two points behind us and since they lost Steven Naismith to injury in their League Cup semi final to us they haven’t been able to score a goal. They’re so bad right now they lost to St Mirren.
It’s fine though, we’ll have a game on hand in which we can regain top spot soon enough. All part of our very busy December schedule, which also ends with us playing that very same team. But one thing at a time.
Today’s League Cup final has a very familiar feel to it. Brendan Rodgers first trophy as Celtic manager came after Celtic had comprehensively beaten Aberdeen 3-0 at Hampden in the League Cup final in 2016. The goals that day came from James Forrest, Tom Rogic and a penalty from Moussa Dembele. That was the first part of the invincible treble that ended with another cup final at Hampden, where despite going behind to a Jonny Hayes header we quickly levelled through Stuart Armstrong.
Then with just two minutes to play Tom Rogic picked up the ball, ran at the Aberdeen defence and slid the ball home from a tight angle. Queue the scenes.
Having beaten Motherwell in both cup finals last season, and won the league in both of those seasons too, Celtic have won the last six domestic honours. A win today would take that run to seven consecutive trophies, which crucially would match the Scottish record for consecutive trophy wins.
The dark days of the early 90s are almost a time we’d rather forget. But history records that Walter Smith’s Rangers lifted the league championship trophy in the 1991/92 season and then added the Scottish Cup by beating Airdrie. The following season they won a domestic treble, then beat Hibernian in the final of the League Cup in the 1993/94 season. Another league title won followed to give them that seventh consecutive trophy, and a chance at back to back trebles followed in the Scottish Cup final.
Of course, you may remember that back to back trebles had never been done before we did it last season. That’s because Dundee United broke Rangers stranglehold over Scotland and finally ended their own jinx in the Scottish Cup at the same time. Thank you Craig Brewster.
However, those seven trophies in a row stands as a record in Scotland and it is one that Celtic can match today. All we have to do is beat Aberdeen. Simple, right?
Well… maybe not. This is an Aberdeen side who have reached this point without conceding a goal in any of the three rounds before the final. Doing that at home to St Mirren might not seem too difficult, but given they had go away to Easter Road and win on penalties and then win at Hampden against the team who will probably be top of the league by the time we kick off, they’ve had a tough route to the final.
Then again, we’ve not had an easy job either. First we had a Glasgow derby away to Championship strugglers Partick Thistle, then we were away to a St Johnstone team just before it turned out no one could score against them – our 6-0 win in the league was the last time anyone did that – and then we had the “neutral” trip to Murrayfield to face the local team and then league leaders Hearts.
We go into this match in very fine form. Since our defeat away to Leipzig we’ve won every game except the draw in Livingston. The only goal we’ve conceded in that time was in the home win over Leipzig and we’ve scored nineteen goals in that same time.
Aberdeen, on the other hand, were pumped 3-0 at Motherwell last week. The goals were like a competition of who could screw up the defending most, and there’s no doubt if Aberdeen play that way today then they’ll be leaving Hampden on the back of a hiding.
But I don’t believe Aberdeen will be that bad again. In other games recently they’ve been tight at the back, have picked up narrow wins, and even gave Hamilton a pumping just as we did last weekend.
Our last meeting with Aberdeen was a tight game with only a bit of quick thinking from Scott Sinclair getting us the winning goal at Celtic Park. Aberdeen are clinging to the memory of beating us at Celtic Park in the last league game of the 2017/18 season, although that was a game they needed to win and we just needed to get out of the way ahead of trophy presentation time. So I’m not sure how much you can read into that.
From their perspective, they’ve beaten the third and fourth best teams from last season. They’ll now have to beat the best if they are to win the trophy, but if they do that then no one can doubt they would deserve it.
But it’s up to Celtic to go out there and once more put in a professional job. Aberdeen had a free week to work on the errors from last weekend. We’ve had an important European game to win in that same time. It’s two entirely different approaches to this game, but either of them could prove to be right.
Let’s just hope it’s us that are celebrating this evening as we aim to win our seventh consecutive trophy and our third consecutive League Cup. That latter achievement is something we haven’t done since the five in a row of Jock Stein.
Krys (Twitter @krys1888)