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Hibernian v Celtic: League Cup final preview, stats & selectors

Kyogo was on the scoresheet when Celtic won 3-1 away to Hibs on Premiership duty in October
Kyogo was on the scoresheet when Celtic won 3-1 away to Hibs on Premiership duty in October
Venue Hampden Park, Glasgow Date: Sunday, 19 December Kick-off: 15:00 BST
Coverage: Listen on BBC Radio Scotland & BBC Radio Nan Gaidheal, live text commentary on the BBC Sport website & app

Can interim Hibernian manager David Gray emerge the unlikely Hampden hero again – or will Celtic secure the first trophy of the Ange Postecoglou era in Sunday’s Scottish League Cup final?

Gray, whose injury-time winner in the 2016 Scottish Cup final landed Hibs’ last major honour, takes charge of a third game after Jack Ross’ sacking.

Celtic are bidding to crown their progress under former Australia boss Postecoglou by reclaiming the trophy they won four years in a row until St Johnstone’s triumph last season.

Postecoglou, the summer successor to Neil Lennon, has brought a feelgood factor back to the Glasgow club, who ended last season without a trophy for the first in time in 11 years.

Celtic are the form team heading to Hampden, having won 11 of their last 12 domestic matches and playing high-tempo, attacking football under the Greek-Australian.

Victory for Hibs, whose previous League Cup triumph came in 2007, would cement former captain Gray’s legendary status at the Edinburgh club.

Since the sacking of Ross 10 days before the final, following a run of one Scottish Premiership win in nine games, Gray has steered Hibs to a draw and a win.

The final is expected to be the 33-year-old’s last game in charge as Hibs are in advanced talks with their preferred candidate, former Scotland forward and current Belgium assistant Shaun Maloney.

Team news

Hibs are hopeful that midfielder Chris Cadden and striker Kevin Nisbet will recover from knocks after both went off injured during Tuesday’s win over Dundee. Midfielder Kyle Magennis (groin) remains sidelined.

Celtic will give star striker Kyogo Furuhashi (hamstring) and wingers James Forrest and Mikey Johnston (both knocks) until as late as possible to make the final.

All three missed the midweek win over Ross County, with Celtic’s attacking options already reduced by the injury absences of Jota, Albian Ajeti and Giorgos Giakoumakis.

Choose your starting XI. It’s up to you how to approach it – you could go for the team you WANT the manager to pick or the one you THINK he will.

Choose your starting XI. It’s up to you how to approach it – you could go for the team you WANT the manager to pick or the one you THINK he will.

What they said

Hibs forward Martin Boyle: “We were in the final [of the Scottish Cup] last season and we know we didn’t turn up that day.

“So I think it’s important that we rectify that, get the trust of the fans back and show that we are more than capable of winning the game.”

Celtic manager Ange Postecoglou: “I am looking forward to it. I enjoyed the trip to Hampden for the semi-final with everything that entails. It should be a special day.

“It is an opportunity for this club to get some silverware. When I joined this club obviously that was the aim. I was under no illusions, I had to try to bring success and the first opportunity to do that is on Sunday.”

Route to the final

Due to their European involvement, both sides started their League Cup campaign at the last-16 stage.

Hibs strode past second-tier Kilmarnock 2-0 at home, then dispatched Premiership rivals Dundee United 3-1 on Tayside to set up a colossal semi-final against Rangers.

Boyle revelled in the Hampden limelight, with the Australia international’s stunning first-half hat-trick firing Hibs to a 3-1 win in Rangers’ first game since manager Steven Gerrard’s departure to Aston Villa.

Celtic avenged their opening Premiership defeat to Hearts by beating the Tynecastle men 3-2 at Parkhead before swatting aside Championship visitors Raith Rovers 3-0.

The semi-final against League Cup holders St Johnstone was a tighter affair. But Forrest came off the bench to score the only goal on an emotional night at Hampden as fans paid tribute to Lisbon Lion Bertie Auld, who had died days earlier.

Match stats

  • Celtic are unbeaten in 11 games against Hibs across all competitions, with the Easter Road men’s last success a 2-0 league win at Easter Road in December 2018.
  • In their only previous meeting this season, Celtic won 3-1 at Easter Road in the Premiership in October.
  • Celtic beat Hibs in the League Cup semi-finals at Hampden in 2017 and 2019 during their four-year stranglehold on the trophy.
  • Hibs have won the League Cup three times, most recently in 2007, compared to 19 for Celtic.
  • The sides have met in the final three times, all within a seven-year period. Hibs’ 2-1 triumph in 1972-73 was sandwiched between resounding Celtic wins, 6-2 in 1968-69 and 6-3 in 1974-75.
  • Hibs forward Boyle, with four goals, is the joint second highest scorer in this season’s competition (Queen of the South’s Ally Roy leads the way on six).
  • Celtic’s seven goals in the tournament have all been netted by different scorers

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