Celtic's improved form is the subject of debate during the latest Scottish Football Podcast as Neil Lennon looks ahead to facing Hearts with history beckoning at Hampden this weekend
Sunday 20 December 2020 13:18, UK
The Scottish Cup final takes place on Sunday between Celtic and Hearts and the chances of Robbie Neilson's side causing an upset was the focus of conversation on the latest Scottish Football Podcast.
Ian Crocker hosts Kris Boyd and Andy Walker as they discuss James Tavernier's incredible free-kick as Rangers overcome Dundee United, which gets them talking about whether a goalkeeper needs a wall when the ball is that far out.
All the weekend's results are discussed in detail before they preview the 2020 Scottish Cup final and give their weekly predictions, while two wins in a week for Celtic suggests there are green shoots of recovery for Neil Lennon's side...
A quadruple treble is the unprecedented prize at stake for Celtic at Hampden this weekend as Hearts stand in the way of a 12th consecutive domestic trophy.
Following their faltering start to the campaign, which saw the team dumped out of the Europa League, is their light at the end of the tunnel for Celtic?
Andy Walker told the Scottish Football Podcast: "I think Celtic supporters have been pleasantly surprised by the immediate impact Conor Hazard, David Turnbull and Ismaila Soro have had on the team.
"The change in formation to a back four with Kristoffer Ajer playing at right-back with Shane Duffy coming back into the centre of defence alongside Christopher Jullien have almost been forced upon Lennon, but they have worked and there is a better look about the starting XI.
"It will be a big call to see who Lennon goes with for the Scottish Cup final. He will have made up his mind having kept a clean sheet and taken all three points against Kilmarnock. In the immediate aftermath of that game, he was already speaking of being loyal to those who have got him to another Cup final.
"I feel he should go with the players who are in form. I know you often see a lot of changes for cup games, but this is a final. Celtic should go with the players who are in form and those who started this improved run against Lille.
"You have to remember to level of quality that side was up against. Lille are riding high in Ligue 1 and that was a really good performance for Celtic to win that. It did not mean a great deal in the grand scheme of things in the Europa League group, but it was against quality opposition.
"Hazard should stay in goal. I know he is not making save after save, but I have spoken to enough defenders and played alongside enough quality defenders in the game to know that the relationship that a goalkeeper has with those in front of them is so crucial.
"I haven't seen any relationship being developed with either Vasilis Barkas or Scott Bain so I would go with Hazard. I would certainly go with Turnbull and Soro and take it from there. It was one of the biggest aspects of the win over Kilmarnock was the clean sheet as they have been giving away so many soft goals in the games played previously.
"To win 2-0 must have pleased all of the back four and the manager, but it seems to me he has already made up his mind and will go with the players who got Celtic to the final in the first place."
Walker admits Celtic have been "shocked" by Rangers' blistering start to the campaign. Steven Gerrard's side put together a 27-game unbeaten start to the campaign that was ended by St Mirren in the Scottish League Cup quarter-finals on Wednesday.
But do Hearts have what it takes to inflict a new low on Celtic this weekend? The Edinburgh club are top of the Scottish Championship after winning six of their opening six league games, including a 6-1 victory over Queen of the South last weekend.
"Hearts are a Scottish Premiership club in all but name, looking beyond all the nonsense during the summer," Walker added. "Hearts should not be in the Championship when you consider the players they have - thinking of Craig Gordon and Craig Halkett, Christophe Berra and Steven Naismith, Liam Boyce and Jamie Walker.
"They have got players who would easily survive in the Scottish Premiership, if not do well in the top six. So they will pose a threat to Celtic and they will get their chances. There has been a lot more debate surrounding Celtic in recent weeks due to their indifferent form, but I do expect them to win as they have got players who can handle the big occasion."