Celtic are naturally clear favourites to win the cup and despite this competition being a relatively low priority, Gordon Strachan will be eager to get his first success on the board. As we discovered last year, taking on the Old Firm in a final is not easy – they generally have players used to the big occasion and they normally get the job done.
The semi final is different though. For a start, it will not be played on a warm spring afternoon but on a cold winter night. The Motherwell-Celtic semi final will be played in front of a Hampden crowd far from capacity. Again, this is not a big deal by itself but it is another small factor in favour of taking on the favourites now.
For whatever reason, Motherwell and Celtic have a long cup history together, much more interesting than that of Motherwell v Rangers. The teams have played 20 Scottish Cup ties (we’ve won 5) and there have been 15 League Cup meetings (we’ve won 3). However, the number of times the clubs have met in the latter stages for these meetings is remarkable. We have met Celtic in three Scottish Cup finals – and lost them all – and five semi finals. We have only won one, the last meeting in 1991. In the League Cup we have met only once in the semi finals, losing 5-4 on penalties after a 2-2 draw in 1986. We last defeated Celtic in the 1978 competition but lost that two-legged tie on aggregate. We did knock them out when we won the trophy though beating them 4-1 away – a 1-0 home reversal was still enough for us to progress and we eventually beat a much admired Hibs 3-0 in the final.
So, there you have it. There are reasons to be pleased with the draw even if there is not yet a plan explaining quite how we’re going to win the semi final. And, for all their dominance in big matches between the sides, we have held our own in the most recent meetings. Perhaps, the tide is turning…