Can Celtic take Brendan Rodgers to seventh heaven?
Background photo: Werner100359, CC BY-SA 4.0
Celtic and Aberdeen will meet at Hampden Park, Glasgow, with both sides eyeing up the first trophy on offer this season. Celtic will be hot favourites to win the Betfred Cup with their manager, Brendan Rodgers, yet to miss out on a domestic trophy since moving up North. He has guided The Hoops to successive trebles, so a win on Sunday would see him lift his seventh consecutive trophy in just two-and-a-half seasons.
Prior to Rodgers' arrival, no manager had won back-to-back trebles. Celtic and Rangers have both won two over a three year period, but Rodgers is breaking his own records at this point, and a Celtic win would be a step towards an incredible treble-treble. A seventh consecutive trophy would also match the current record held by the Rangers team of the 1990's. They won two trophies in 1991/92, a treble in 1992/93 and the first two competitions in 1993/94. The run ended in the 1994 Scottish Cup final when Dundee United denied Rangers the treble and an eighth consecutive honour.
Celtic had a disappointing start to the season when they slipped behind early pacesetters Heart of Midlothian. The poor beginning included a defeat to Hearts and another to Kilmarnock, but since then, Celtic have picked up 19 points from their last seven matches and they are now back in what has become their usual position at the top of the league. Even in European competition, Celtic have improved with back-to-back wins against RB Leipzig and Rosenborg; meaning they need a single point from their last game at home to Red Bull Salzburg to secure European football after Christmas.
Aberdeen are no strangers to cup finals and in 2016/17, they lost both this cup final and the Scottish Cup final to today's opponents. They were also runners-up to Rodgers's team in his two league successes and even before his arrival, they were second in the league during both seasons that Ronny Deila managed the Glaswegian side. While most people talk about the Celtic and Rangers rivalry, Aberdeen has been the biggest threat to Rodgers' side over the last few seasons.
Things haven't been going quite so well for Derek McInnes' side this term, though. They are currently sixth which is disappointing, but the gap isn't huge and they are only six points off second-placed Rangers. That said, one wonders if some of McInnes' shine has begun to wear off. He has had opportunities to leave the Dons over the last few campaigns but to his credit, he has shown a great deal of loyalty by staying at Pittodrie. However, it's impossible not to wonder if McInnes has taken them as far as they can go and he maybe should have gotten out while his stock was at its highest.
Despite Aberdeen being Celtic's biggest challengers of late, they don't have a great record against Rodgers' team. Since the Irishman's arrival in Glasgow, the sides have met 11 times. Celtic have won 10 of those with Aberdeen's only win coming on the last day of last season. Aberdeen won 1-0 at Celtic Park which secured second place in the league but it was a game that didn't really matter to Celtic as they had clinched the league weeks earlier.
Celtic will rightfully be favourites for this game. They have returned to form, they have a great record against Aberdeen and their squad is much stronger than the Dons. However, Aberdeen on their day are capable of turning it on and will at the very least look to make things difficult for Celtic. Whether they can make it difficult enough to stop Rodgers picking up a seventh consecutive crown is another matter but it's definitely worth tuning in to find it.