Motherwell v Aberdeen: The ''other'' Scottish Cup semifinal
Virtually all eyes will be on Sunday's Scottish Cup semi-final between Celtic and Rangers. It may come as a surprise to many that there are, by definition, two more teams involved. Aberdeen and Motherwell will meet at Hampden Park on Saturday to earn a place in the season-ending showpiece. Neither has won the Scottish Cup since the early 1990's. One will have another opportunity against a Glasgow giant when the final is played on the 19th May.
Motherwell's last win was in 1991. The Steelmen have only been in one final since, losing to Celtic in 2011. Aberdeen's most recent Scottish Cup win came a year before Well's, when they too beat Celtic, on penalties, in 1990. The Dons have been to three finals since, losing to Rangers in 1993 and 2000 before Tom Rogic broke their hearts late on in last year's final. His late goal won Celtic the treble.
Motherwell haven't had a great season. They're sitting seventh with the league poised to split in two. They have no hope to move up, no worry to fall into relegation. The cup is the only meaningful competition remaining. If Motherwell can win, it will be their second cup final this season. In November they lost to Celtic in the League Cup final. Along the way, they beat Aberdeen and Rangers, giving Stephen Robinson's squad reason to be confident.
Robinson has a few decisions to make before the game. He will be without three players. Carl McHugh is suspended. Both Craig Tanner and Peter Hartley are injured. Robinson must choose their replacements wisely. The big decision will be who comes in for McHugh. Motherwell's captain is a huge loss.
Aberdeen enter Hampden Park as favourites. They have been Celtic's biggest challenger in recent seasons, albeit from quite a way back. Once again they are in the running to finish second, battling Rangers and Hibernian for the honour over the final five league games. Aberdeen had been in good form but a run of four wins came to an end last weekend. They lost to Hearts, giving them the added motivation of wanting to get back to winning ways.
Under Derek McInnes, Aberdeen have done well in cup competitions. Victory will deliver their fourth cup final appearance since McInnes arrived in 2013. They won the 2014 League Cup before losing the League and Scottish Cups to Celtic last season. If Aberdeen are to make another final, it will be without suspended trio Graeme Shinnie, Kenny McLean, and Shay Logan. All three are key players whose replacements must step up to the level required in their absence.
If league position held any relevance, the Dons would progress. Cup competitions are defined by upsets, however. These two sides have met four times this season, each winning two. Motherwell won the League Cup meeting. Aberdeen will look to a 2-0 win two weeks ago at Fir Park. Ultimately, previous meetings and league positions won't matter when the game gets underway at lunchtime. The sides will have to battle it out all over again for a place in Scottish football's marquee event.