It’s kind of fitting that Derek McInnes’ Aberdeen are the biggest obstacle standing in the way of our fabled treble treble.
If Celtic are to realise dreams and achieve the inconceivable achievement of nine successive domestic trophies then we’ll have won the majority of them ahead of the Dons.
In any other period of Scottish football, the Pittodrie side would likely have chalked up a few trophies of their own. As it is, they have just three cup finals and two distant second place league finishes to show for their efforts.
Next month will see the end of McInnes’ sixth season in charge at Pittodrie. So far, he has just one major honour to his name – the 2014 League Cup won at Celtic Park. That may be more than his seven predecessors combined, yet there’s still a sense of missed opportunity.
The Dons will almost certainly not finish second in the Premiership this year, like they have for the previous four seasons. With Rangers, Kilmarnock and Hibernian all on the up, their cup opportunities may soon be at a premium too. Many reckon that McInnes has taken the club as far as he can – so is this the perfect chance to go out on a high?
They’re in the best position in years to take on Celtic at the National Stadium. They may have lost two of their last four Glasgow based matches against us, but those were both by a single goal.
They also won 1-0 at Celtic Park at the end of last season and could have done likewise had their finishing been better in Neil Lennon’s first home match last month.
If you extend that Glasgow record to include games against Rangers then it makes for even better reading from a Dons perspective. They’ve beaten Steven Gerrard’s side on all three meetings in Glasgow this year, and haven’t conceded a goal.
All in all, Aberdeen have conceded just two in their last seven visits to Glasgow, scoring six. That’s a far cry from the side that shipped 13 in their prior five trips to Celtic Park, Ibrox and Hampden.
They’ll also feel that the uncertainty and lull in recent Celtic performances is something they can feed on in front of a Hoops support that will be quick to show their frustrations if things aren’t going to plan.
Derek McInnes’ men will, however, be without at least three men who started the Betfred Cup final in December.
Captain Graeme Shinnie is suspended following a booking in the quarter-final replay win at Ibrox while former Hoops man Gary Mackay-Steven and right-back Shay Logan both have long-term injuries. This means that the Dons will have to shuffle the pack with Dom Ball almost certain to slot in at full-back and either the experienced Stephen Gleeson or teenager Dean Campbell in midfield – probably the latter.
Ball will likely be the weak link that Celtic look to exploit. The former Rangers man has looked more assured lately but memories of a horror show at the National Stadium in last year’s semi-final defeat to Motherwell will still linger, and should he get off to a rocky start then he may not recover.
Forward Sam Cosgrove is a player that the Celtic backline must keep an watchful eye on, although he has scored just one goal from open play in over 700 minutes of football.
The real Dons threat is likely to come on the counter attack from the pacy Connor McLennan and Niall McGinn – both scorers at Ibrox, and the highly rated talent Lewis Ferguson who, at the age of 18, has already shown he’s a man for the big stage.
Keep the above three quiet and we should be able to assert a dominance on the game that will eventually bring goals and passage though to Scotland’s showpiece match and a shot at even greater history.