Hearts and Hibernian meet in an Edinburgh derby on Saturday while Celtic and Aberdeen face each other on Sunday, just a week after a dramatic 3-3 draw in the Scottish Premiership; keep up-to-date with the latest scores from both games across Sky Sports’ digital platforms
Thursday 29 October 2020 15:35, UK
There are two huge Scottish Cup semi-finals this weekend and Andy Walker gives his preview and predictions of the matches at Hampden Park.
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Hearts vs Hibernian – Saturday, 5pm
I am not entirely convinced the Scottish Cup should be played to a finish when it will be 16 months since the competition started before we eventually get a winner on December 20.
The league may have been called early, but bizarrely, the Scottish Cup has the chance to conclude and I’m convinced the sense of injustice felt over the summer months will be used by manager Robbie Neilson when he takes his squad to Glasgow on Saturday.
He has a good level of experience to call upon in goalkeeper Craig Gordon, goalscorer Liam Boyce and Scotland international Steven Naismith. It’s a squad that looks by far and away the strongest in the Championship and with two league wins out of two already over Dundee and Arbroath, it’s been a positive start.
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However, they are up against a Hibs side who have also made a marvellous start to their season, sitting in third place in the Scottish Premiership and boasting of international players of their own.
Defender Ryan Porteous was called up by Steve Clarke to the national squad and both Paul McGinn and Paul Hanlon soon joined him. What a boost for everyone at Easter Road to see three players recognised at a higher level for their fine form.
Kevin Nisbet already has seven goals to his name since joining from Dunfermline and he’s made the step up in class look easy. At this rate, maybe he too will receive international recognition from Steve.
Nisbet is well supported by Christian Doidge and Martin Boyle and it is their combination play that has seen Hibs get the upper hand and win the majority of their games so far.
Given that Hibs have already played a quarter of the season, they should be well tuned to a demanding fixture whereas Hearts are still finding their feet after a couple of cup ties to add to their two league games. I think it will make all the difference.
Andy predicts: Hearts 1-3 Hibs
Celtic vs Aberdeen – Sunday, 2.30pm
Given their recent form, Aberdeen must feel as if this could be their time to get to another Scottish Cup final.
Not only has their form been very good with an impressive mixture of goalscorers, they were a match for Celtic last weekend in that thrilling 3-3 draw at Pittodrie.
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In Lewis Ferguson, Derek McInnes has a player for the big occasion. He scored the only goal of the game when Aberdeen beat Rangers in a Scottish League Cup semi-final a couple of years ago at Hampden, proving he can perform on the big occasion. He already has eight goals to his name so far this season.
Ferguson’s previous best was eight for an entire season so he definitely has the ability to score more often. Those who point out his tally is made up of half a dozen from the penalty spot should remember they still count. There is a skill to handling that pressure and scoring regularly from 12 yards.
With Dylan McGeouch out for at least eight weeks with a groin injury picked up at the weekend, McInnes will have to mix things up in the middle of the park.
I was very impressed with the contribution of Scott Wright last weekend. His direct style and determination to take players on gave his team-mates a lift and it is likely he will play from the start.
Having won the last four domestic trophies available, Neil Lennon is fending off talk of a crisis after losing back-to-back games against Rangers and AC Milan followed by a draw at Pittodrie! Such is the way of it in Glasgow. I’m convinced hysteria and extreme reaction will dominate every poor result for both Celtic and Rangers this season given the importance of the league title.
I imagine captain Scott Brown will return to the starting line-up for Celtic, Olivier Ntcham got the nod last weekend but yet again he failed to impress. Brown’s experience of the big occasion can help spur the team on. Leigh Griffiths scored an outstanding goal against Aberdeen last weekend and I also expect him to start.
Celtic’s record at Hampden in recent years has been extraordinary, But with no crowd to inspire them, it should make it easier for the Dons to compete.
Remember, while Celtic travel to France for their Europa League clash with Lille on Thursday night, Aberdeen have the full week without any distractions to prepare for this massive game.
Like last Sunday, this is sure to be close but I am taking Celtic’s know-how and experience of winning big games at Hampden in recent years to give them the edge.
Andy predicts: Celtic 2-1 Aberdeen
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