Hearts v Celtic: Round 2 of the Double-Header

There’s a feeling of Groundhog Day going into today’s game at Tynecastle with the clubs having met at Celtic Park just 3 days ago on league duty.  The Hoops triumphed 3-1 in midweek to take another step towards retaining the league title and a similar outcome today would inch a possible treble that little bit closer.

Celtic has won the last 7 encounters between the sides, although only 2 of those games have taken place at Tynecastle; 4 at Celtic Park and 1 at Hampden.  On both occasions Celtic emerged victorious from hard-fought ties in Edinburgh with single goal winning margins.  Another tight and edgy affair is likely on the cards today.

“It’s a cup game, a different beast to the league. Cup games always have a different nature and playing away is different.” – Ange Postecoglou

While Wednesday was all about getting the three points and staying on course in the league, today’s game has the ‘win or bust’ thrill that comes with the Cup.  Win, and the treble dream lives on. Lose, and it’s gone for another year.

However, if there’s one thing we’ve learned – or been reminded of – in the past week, it’s that the current Celtic side is the most single-minded and focussed we have seen in a long time.  The mindset that Ange and the players speaks about regularly is designed to have the players primed for each game as it comes.

The players were set for the challenge of Hearts at home in the league on Wednesday and they will be focussed on the different challenge of Hearts away in the Cup today.  The only thought in players minds will be the process that takes Celtic into the semi-final draw.


Celtic will be hoping today’s trip to Gorgie will be more straightforward than their last back in October.  The Hoops had to come from behind to secure a 4-3 win in a game marred by VAR controversy.

The disallowing of Anthony Ralston’s 31st minute header, for a perceived infringement by Giakoumakis, denied Celtic an early 2 goal cushion.  This was followed by two highly contentious penalty decisions against Celtic.

The award of Hearts first penalty for a foul by Carter-Vickers came after Nick Walsh had initially waved play on feeling there was nothing in the collision.  For balance, slow-motion replays did show that the Hearts player got a touch to the ball first before Carter-Vickers collided with him.

While VAR may have called that one right, the decision not to give a penalty to Celtic for Michael Smith’s handball in the box moments later was plain bizarre.  The denial of a Celtic penalty in this case has been further confounded by some of the handball decisions that have resulted in penalties against Celtic this season; see Bernabei against Dundee United, O’Riley against Ross County, and Taylor versus St. Mirren as examples.

Fortunately, Celtic did not let these decisions negatively impact their performance and showed a rugged determination to keep on plugging away at Hearts until victory was secured.  That it was left back Greg Taylor getting forward to score the winning goal epitomised the teams fighting spirit.

Also key to Celtic that day was Aaron Mooy who, for the first time in a Celtic shirt, showed the qualities that have made him a mainstay in the side ever since.


At yesterday’s press conference Ange announced that everyone was fit to play with the exception of Daizen Maeda, a call on the Japanese forward’s availability not expected until nearer to kick-off.

Ange hinted at changes to his side for the Hearts double-header before the first meeting and duly delivered by making 4 changes from the team that beat St. Mirren last Sunday. Out went Taylor, Johnston, Hatate, and Jota, replaced by Bernabei, Ralston, O’Riley, and Abada.

As always, the manager was keeping his cards close to his chest on the expected line up for today’s game but with an almost full squad to pick from and the importance of this being a knockout tie, it is expected that Celtic will return to their strongest XI for this game; if such a thing exists given the level of quality across all positions in the squad.



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