PREVIEW: Scottish Cup Semi-Finals

A look ahead to this weekend’s Scottish Cup semi-finals at Hampden Park as Championship rivals Hibernian and Falkirk lock horns on Saturday while Celtic face fellow Premiership side Inverness on Sunday

Hibernian players line up in the tunnel at Easter Road
Two down: Hibernian have won both previous Scottish Cup meetings with Falkirk in 2006 and 2013 (Picture from Sky Sports)

HIBERNIAN are seeking to book a place in the Scottish Cup Final for the third time in four years when facing Championship rivals Falkirk in the first of the semi-finals on Saturday.

Two-time winners Hibs – who were runners-up in both 2012 and 2013 following heavy defeats to Hearts and Celtic – are still looking to win the competition for the first time since 1902.

Falkirk have also lifted the trophy twice – the last being back in 1957 – although they lost 1-0 to Rangers in the 2009 Final.

It is a repeat of the epic encounter between the sides at this stage two years ago when Falkirk went 3-0 up inside half an hour before a dramatic turnaround by Hibs before Leigh Griffiths – who also missed a penalty – fired a stunning extra-time winner.

Hibs currently have the upper hand on Falkirk in the race to finish in the play-offs in the second tier – third in the table with nine points and two places separating the teams.

Alan Stubbs (Hibs manager v Berwick Scottish Cup QF 8th March 2015)
Record: Stubbs has won 23 of his 40 games in charge this season in all competitions (Picture from Sky Sports)

But Peter Houston’s Falkirk have won two of the three meetings this season by a 1-0 scoreline before a thrilling 3-3 draw back in January.

Hibs have won their last two games after three successive defeats including their first Edinburgh derby under Alan Stubbs last Sunday.

Falkirk forward Craig Sibbald (v Dumbarton - 20th Dec 2014)
The 19-year-old forward scored the opening goal in Falkirk’s 4-3 defeat to Hibernian two years ago and is one of only two survivors from the Bairns team who played that day (Picture from BBC ALBA)

Since beating Queen of the South in the quarter-finals, the Bairns have been on an inconsistent run with four wins and four defeats from their eight subsequent league games.

The sides are also due to meet on the final weekend of the league season but it is unclear whether the Easter Road fixture will be played on Saturday or Sunday amid complaints from both Hearts and Hibs that Rangers have an unfair advantage.

Falkirk head coach Peter Houston
The Bairns boss guided Dundee United to Scottish Cup glory at Hampden Park in 2010 (Picture from BBC ALBA)

Houston’s preparation has been meticulous – naming his team on Thursday and booking the same hotel that Dundee United stayed in before their 3-0 win over Ross County in the Scottish Cup Final five years ago.

Following the collapse two years ago, Falkirk – who also reached the 2012 League Cup semi-finals – will be desperate for revenge against a Hibs side who have a 113-year itch to scratch as far as this competition is concerned.

TEAM NEWS:

Hibernian are unlikely to make wholesale changes from last weekend’s 2-0 win over Hearts.

Falkirk are set to be without 12-goal top scorer Rory Loy who has not played in eight games since bruising a bone in the quarter-final win over Queen of the South.

POSSIBLE LINE-UPS:

Hibernian predicted XI v Falkirk (Scottish Cup semi - 18th April 2015)

Falkirk predicted XI v Hibernian (Scots Cup semi - 18th April 2015)

MATCH OFFICIALS:

John Beaton referee
The man in charge: Beaton, 34, was in the middle for the Ramsdens Cup Final between Livingston and Falkirk earlier this month (Picture from BT Sport)

REFEREE:  John Beaton
ASSISTANT REFEREES:  Stuart Stevenson and Alasdair Ross
FOURTH OFFICIAL:  Crawford Allan

INVERNESS CALEY THISTLE v CELTIC

Scott Brown in Hampden Park tunnel (1st February 2015)
Pumped up: Celtic captain Scott Brown – who was booked for diving against Inverness last weekend – will be key to his side’s chances of bossing the midfield (Picture from BBC)

CELTIC will be looking to reach their second cup final of the season when up against fellow Scottish Premiership side Inverness Caley Thistle.

Ronny Deila’s Hoops – who are chasing a first domestic treble since 2001 – lifted the League Cup last month after beating 10-man Dundee United 2-0 in the final.

The Highlanders, meanwhile, are seeking to book the first Scottish Cup Final appearance of their 21-year history a year after their first ever major final in the League Cup which ended in a penalty shoot-out loss to Aberdeen at Celtic Park.

The sides met as recently as last weekend in a 1-1 draw in the Highlands which saw two goals in the first four minutes with Leigh Griffiths’ opener for the visitors immediately cancelled out by Caley Thistle striker Edward Ofore.

John Hughes pre-match (v Celtic - 11th April 2015)
Previous experience: The former Hibs boss – who has been Inverness boss since December 2013 – led Falkirk to the 2009 Scottish Cup Final (Picture from Sky Sports)

The Bhoys – who are eight points clear at the top-flight summit with five games left – are 21 points and two places above Inverness in the table.

But after last Saturday’s result, Caley Thistle have taken four points from a possible nine in the league against Celtic following a 1-0 home win back in August despite their 1-0 reverse at Parkhead in November.

The two teams will also lock horns again a week before the Scottish Cup Final on the last day of the Premiership campaign in Glasgow when Celtic – on the verge of being crowned champions for the fourth successive season – are widely expected to receive the trophy.

Inverness 1-1 Celtic - Greg Tansey and Stuart Armstrong (11th April 2015)
It will be the first Scottish Cup meeting since Celtic’s 2-0 win in the Highlands in February 2012 (Picture from BBC)

Inverness boss John Hughes reckons his side have a massive advantage even before a ball is kicked with Celtic having been in league action against Kilmarnock on Wednesday night – Griffiths netting a hat-trick off the bench in a 4-1 comeback victory.

Deila has assured Celtic supporters his team will be fresh on Sunday having made four changes for the Killie triumph as his side look to continue their excellent domestic form in 2015.

The Hoops have won all but two of their 19 league and cup games in the calendar year – including four of their last five Premiership matches – although they have conceded in each of the last two having kept five clean sheets in a row before that.

Celtic needed a replay to reach the semi-final stage for the fifth time in the last six seasons – thumping nine-man Dundee United 4-0 after a controversial quarter-final tie at Tannadice which brought three red cards and two penalties.

Ronny Deila pre-match (v Dundee Utd Scottish Cup QF 8th March 2015)
Three in a row: The Norwegian will be searching for a third win in his third visit to Hampden Park this season (Picture from Sky Sports)

The 36-time Scottish Cup winners have only secured the trophy twice in the past seven seasons with the last coming under Neil Lennon in 2012-13 following a 3-0 success over Hibernian at Hampden.

Inverness, however, have not visited the national stadium since the 2003 Scottish Cup semis when they lost out to Dundee.

Since edging past Raith Rovers in the quarter-finals, Hughes’s side have won just one of their four league encounters and recorded just one victory in the last eight in all competitions.

But with the guarantee of facing Championship opposition in the May 30 final, there is a huge incentive for both sides with Inverness looking for a maiden honour and Celtic on track for a clean sweep.

POSSIBLE LINE-UPS:

Inverness predicted XI (v Celtic - Scots Cup semi 19th April 2015)

Celtic predicted XI (v Inverness Scots Cup semi - 19th April 2015)

TEAM NEWS:

Celtic boss Ronny Deila is likely to revert back to the team which drew with Inverness last Sunday after making changes for the 4-1 win over Killie in midweek.

In-form Leigh Griffiths – who has five goals in his last six games and nine in total this season – is expected to lead the line with Stefan Johansen in the attacking number 10 role.

Deila has a tough choice to make at right-back with either Efe Ambrose or Adam Matthews set to get the nod.

Inverness could name the same team which faced Celtic last Saturday which would mean on-loan Middlesbrough forward Tarmo Kink and midfielder Aaron Doran remain on the bench.

MATCH OFFICIALS:

Steven McLean points for free-kick (Hamilton Accies v Celtic - 17th Jan 2015)
Familiar face: McLean, 34, took charge of last season’s League Cup Final and the League Cup semi-final between Aberdeen and Dundee United in February (Picture from Sky Sports)

REFEREE:  Steven McLean
ASSISTANT REFEREES:  Alan Mulvanny and Frank Connor
FOURTH OFFICIAL:  Calum Murray

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