Jota and Hatate back for Scottish Cup Glasgow derby

Celtic received a pre-match boost yesterday with Ange Postecoglou confirming that both Jota and Hatate, along with Liel Abada, are fit and available for selection for tomorrow’s Scottish Cup semi-final against Rangers.

The attacking duo have missed the last few weeks through injury with their creative absence most notably visible last weekend as Celtic struggled to breakdown Motherwell’s stubborn resistance.

Between them, Jota and Hatate have contributed 38 goals and assists this season as Celtic have dominated the domestic scene.  To have this level of goal threat back in the squad is a massive psychological boost going into the game.

However, with question marks over the match fitness of both players and the good form of the likes of Matt O’Riley and Tomoki Iwata in midfield, neither player is guaranteed a starting spot. Having seen Aaron Mooy struggle after being returning from his injury lay-off, Ange will be wary of rushing Jota and Hatate back too soon, despite having a week’s training under their belts.

In the event of one or both players only making the bench, the prospect of being able to call upon them from the bench increases Celtic’s game changing options for the better.

Familiar Foes

Tomorrow’s game will be the 5th Glasgow Derby of the season and the second in the space of three weeks.  Celtic are unbeaten in the four previous encounters this season, having won twice and drawn once in the league as well as winning the League Cup final in February.

You need to go back just over a year to last season’s Scottish Cup semi-final for the last time Celtic lost a Glasgow Derby, going down 2-1 in extra-time on that occasion.  As if extra motivation is needed for a Glasgow Derby, the memory of that game and the knowledge that victory will move Celtic to within one game of an historic 8th domestic Treble will have the Bhoys fired up ahead of kick-off.

The opening Glasgow Derby of the season aside, matches between the sides this season have been relatively tight affairs, at least in terms of the score lines.  In truth, Celtic have underperformed in the last couple of games yet still emerged with a Cup success and an extended lead in the league.

An improved performance tomorrow could see Celtic book their return to Hampden in May for the final against Inverness Caledonian Thistle and quash the Michael Beale myth before the season is out.

That said, Celtic will need to guard against complacency tomorrow as they face a Rangers side desperate to win in order to give some validation to their claims of narrowing the gap on Celtic.

A strong midfield performance is required to control the tempo of the game and with the threat of Kyogo up front, goals rarely seem too far away.

Kyogoal for 30?

Having failed to hit the target last week against Motherwell, Kyogo goes into tomorrow’s game on 29 goals for the season.  Should the Japanese striker continue his hot-streak against Rangers and hit goal number 30 tomorrow, he will become the first player since John Collins to score in four consecutive games against either iteration of the Ibrox club.

Kyogo broke his Glasgow Derby duck at Ibrox in January with a later equaliser before following that up with a double in the League Cup final.  He then added a fourth goal in three games against Rangers earlier this month with a close-range finish in front of a packed Celtic Park.

With the possibility of Jota returning to the front line and providing an increased level of creativity to the attack, there is a very real prospect of Kyogo putting Rangers to the sword and leading Celtic to another Cup final.

Possible starting line-up

Kevin McCluskie

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