Kris Boyd tips Rangers vs Celtic for Betfred Cup final

Celtic's Scott Brown and Rangers' Alfredo Morelos on the pitch during the Old Firm derby

Sky Sports pundit Kris Boyd is tipping Celtic and Rangers to overcome difficult Betfred Cup last-four ties against Hibernian and Hearts this weekend to set up a first Old Firm cup final since 2011.

Holders Celtic meet Neil Lennon's former side Hibernian at Hampden on Saturday before Rangers face Hearts, who sacked Craig Levein on Thursday, in Glasgow the following day, with a place in the first final on the Scottish football calendar up for grabs.

Both Glasgow teams picked up wins in the midweek round of Premiership fixtures, with Celtic beating St Mirren 2-0 at Parkhead, while Rangers impressed in their 4-0 victory over Ross County in Dingwall, meaning the Old Firm rivals are separated by just one goal at the top of the table after 11 games.

Hearts boss Craig Levein has come under increasing pressure after a poor start to the season 1:28
Rangers captain James Tavernier says Craig Levein's sacking as Hearts manager won't affect their mindset as they prepare for Sunday's Scottish League Cup semi-final

However, their Edinburgh counterparts are not faring as well this season. Both sides have won just once each in the league so far, with Hearts' 1-0 loss to St Johnstone on Wednesday proving to be the final straw for owner Ann Budge, who has replaced Levein with assistant Austin MacPhee on a caretaker basis.

Hibs boss Paul Heckingbottom has also faced calls from fans to go after a poor league start, but both they and Hearts have recently held Celtic and Rangers to draws at home.

Hibs manager Paul Heckingbottom
Image: Hibs manager Paul Heckingbottom is under pressure

However, with Celtic looking to secure their fourth League Cup trophy in a row and Rangers desperate to contest their first cup final since 2016, Boyd believes those recent stalemates will count for nothing this weekend.

Steven Gerrard's side were lacklustre in their 1-0 defeat to Aberdeen at this stage of the competition last season as they stumbled in their bid to set up an all-Glasgow final last time out.

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Kris Boyd won the League Cup twice during his time at Rangers
Image: Kris Boyd won the League Cup twice during his time at Rangers

But while Boyd, who won the competition twice during his time at Ibrox, expects the capital sides to offer a sterner challenge than their current league positions would suggest, cannot see either of the Premiership's top two slipping up this time and is predicting a first Old Firm cup final since 2011.

Boyd expects Old Firm final

"I don't think both will be as straightforward as we would expect - if you look back at the history of this cup - Motherwell and Aberdeen have defeated Rangers in the semi-final, if you go back a few years ago Kilmarnock, Ross County and St Mirren defeated Celtic.

Celtic captain Scott Brown says his team cannot be complacent against a struggling Hibernian side in the Scottish League Cup semi-final

"While I don't believe there will be an upset, I just don't think both will be as straightforward as we think. However, I fully expect an Old Firm final come the first week in December.

"Craig Levein's sacking doesn't make a difference from Rangers' point of view - they know that if they continue to play the way they have been then they should have enough to beat Hearts.

Celtic celebrate their League Cup final victory over Aberdeen
Image: Celtic celebrate their League Cup final victory over Aberdeen

"Rangers and Celtic could go on and beat them by two, three or four goals but history tells us that sometimes the underdog does prevail. I don't believe it will happen but you just never know.

"Austin MacPhee is a good coach, he knows his stuff and has been a big part of why Northern Ireland have been doing so well. Hearts will be better prepared for the semi-final but I still only see one outcome.

Hearts' Ryotaro Meshino is challenged by Rangers' Steven Davis
Image: Rangers face Hearts in Glasgow on Sunday

"With what's at stake for both Rangers and Celtic you would believe they would come through the ties. It's more of a surprise that both Edinburgh sides are actually in the semi-finals because, when you look at their form this year, it is not wrong to say it is disgraceful.

"I think Rangers are in a far better place right now in terms of where they were this time last season and the semi-final loss to Aberdeen. They are interchanging with Scott Arfield, Joe Aribo and Sheyi Ojo, and Ryan Jack getting forward as well is a massive plus for Rangers.

Celtic's Scott Brown and Hibernian's Scott Allan
Image: Celtic meet Hibernian at Hampden on Saturday

"I would expect Glen Kamara to drop out at the weekend and Steven Davis to come back in so you could argue Rangers are stronger and if they can get anywhere close to the performance that they produced in the highlands on Wednesday then, for me, they should take part in the League Cup final.

Edinburgh sides should be doing better

"When you look at Hibs and Hearts, it should always be difficult to go to Easter Road and Tynecastle, but obviously Hearts' home record has been shocking - no wins in seven months at home is a disgrace but at Hampden it will be different.

Hearts captain Christophe Berra 0:34
Hearts captain Christophe Berra admits his team are under big pressure heading into every match after a disappointing start to the season

"When you take into consideration what Hearts and Hibs have done against Rangers and Celtic at home, they should be picking up more points than they are in the league.

"Hibs didn't lose the game on Wednesday against Livingston so they'll take the positive from it but what happened midweek in the league will have no bearing on the League Cup semi-finals at the weekend.

"With Hibs - how many times do we see it - people coming up the road and disrespecting the Scottish league and I think that's been the classic example again by Hibs. The players they have brought in have not been good enough.

Hibernian boss Paul Heckingbottom 0:41
Hibs boss Paul Heckingbottom has the full backing of the dressing room, according to defender Paul Hanlon, despite the team winning just one league match this season

"The league is of a far better standard and I would not be surprised if Heckingbottom follows Levein out of the door very soon.

A bearing on the title race?

"I don't think a potential League Cup final would distract Rangers or Celtic. Whatever happens, if both are to progress and it is an Old Firm final, the bragging rights in terms of who comes out on top in December could have a bearing on what's going to happen going forward.

Steven Davis and Ryan Christie
Image: Celtic and Rangers are level on points in the Premiership

"If Rangers win it all of a sudden Celtic's dominance in all three competitions is over but, again, if Celtic are to win it then it's a case of 10 trophies in a row and then the pressure would probably turn towards Steven Gerrard more than it has been.

"I don't think this weekend will have any bearing but the final, if they are to get there, both sets of fans will be the ones who, if there is any pressure, will ramp it up, which always happens.

Celtic and Rangers are currently level on 28 points at the top of the SPFL table. 0:34
The results of the four Old Firm derbies will decide whether the Scottish Premiership title goes to Rangers or Celtic, says Kris Boyd

"It's so important for both teams because it is the first major trophy up for grabs this season. Rangers want to stop Celtic's dominance over the last few seasons but the size of both football clubs demand that you need to win trophies.

"If both are to get through to the final, this would be the first trophy up for grabs this season so this is vitally important for both teams and, if it is an Old Firm final, then nobody wants to lose it because the bragging rights will have a big say, for me, in what happens in the league and going forward with the Scottish Cup."

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