Football Expert & Columnist
Andy Walker says Hibs have it all to do against Celtic
Andy Walker says Hibs are up against it in Sunday's Scottish Cup Final against SPL champions Celtic.
Last Updated: 24/05/13 2:04pm
Last year, Hibs suffered embarrassment and humiliation on Scottish Cup final day when bitter rivals Hearts thrashed them 5-1.
Not since 1902, 111 years ago, has the Scottish Cup been in Hibs hands. So when Pat Fenlon's men turn up on Sunday at Hampden to contest this year's final against Neil Lennon's Celtic, it's hard to make a case for a Hibs win. Everything seems to be against the Edinburgh side.
Cup finals are special occasions and Hibs fell apart on the big occasion a year ago. Jorge Claros was taken off before half-time when his team were 2 goals down; manager Pat Fenlon lost his composure when he made an offensive gesture to goading Hearts fans meaning he was sent to the stand and talisman Leigh Griffiths was anonymous throughout.
In contrast, Celtic are in excellent form.
I saw them dismantle St Johnstone at Celtic Park a couple of weeks ago when they scored four goals and they did the same again at the weekend, taking another four goals off Dundee Utd.
Neil Lennon's biggest problem will be to nominate his starting eleven. Georgios Samaras scored twice at Tannadice and although his manager insists no one has a certain starting place, my guess is the Greek international will play from the start.
Kris Commons is another who is in excellent form and when you see him take his place up front alongside Gary Hooper and James Forrest, it has the making of a potent attacking line up.
Scott Brown has also played himself into a starting slot after recovering from injury and I see him in midfield alongside Joe Ledley. Defensively, I imagine Charlie Mulgrew will play alongside Kelvin Wilson with Michael Lustig and Emilio Izaguirre as full backs.
All in all, Celtic will go into the game as huge favourites with only their recent form at Hampden a minor concern.
Under the guidance of Neil Lennon, Celtic supporters will remember the agony of losing to Ross County, Hearts, Kilmarnock and St Mirren at the national stadium in recent years and they needed extra time to see off the challenge of Dundee Utd in the semi-final.
If Hibs are to win, they have to be able to cope with the pressure of the big occasion and compete from the first whistle.
I'll be interested to see if Pat Fenlon wants to play a containing game or whether he opts for the potential of Jordan Forster, Alex Harris and Ross Caldwell.
Forster has slotted in at centre half very well in the absence of the more experienced James McPake and it'll be a big call if Fenlon were to opt for a 20-year old in place of the experienced McPake.
Following his excellent semi-final contribution and displays since, Alex Harris is guaranteed a starting slot. The 19-year old has a bright future ahead of him and his contest with either of Celtic's full backs will be an area Hibs will look to exploit.
I imagine Pat Fenlon will use the experience of Kevin Thomson in midfield. Although he struggles to last the entire 90 minutes, his use of the ball is a big asset for the underdogs.
Up front, Leigh Griffiths is the obvious threat and the Scottish Football Writers Player of the Year already has a winner against Celtic in league business earlier this season.
I just wonder if Pat Fenlon will be bold enough to play young Ross Caldwell from the start? His exceptional finish in the recent Edinburgh derby was an indication of the raw talent he has. To score the winning goal in such cool fashion amidst a frantic atmosphere tells me he can deliver on the big stage.
It's unavoidable for Hibs not to think of how badly it all went wrong last season against Hearts. Pat Fenlon's team selection and approach to the game will have a huge bearing on their chances of success.