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Saturday 2nd November 2019

Hibernian Celtic Betfred Cup

Hibs v Celtic - key players

A View From the Terrace's Craig Fowler looks at some of the players who could have a big impact on Saturday's Betfred Cup semi-final at Hampden...

Christian Doidge (Hibernian)
Even with his struggles in front of goal, Hibs have looked a more fluid attack with him in the lone striker role as opposed to Florian Kamberi. The two played alongside each other in the second half against Livingston on Wednesday as Paul Heckingbottom looked to claw back a two-goal deficit, but it's likely he'll revert to one up top for the Celtic match. Doidge is better at linking play than Kamberi and his runs in behind routinely threaten the opposition, even if the final outcome isn't often fatal. If he can change that on Saturday then Hibs might have a chance.

Paul Hanlon (Hibernian)
There's been a lot said about the Hibs attack this season, while the midfield has also been getting criticised by a fanbase that still has Allan-McGinn-McGeouch fresh on their minds. However, the defence hasn't exactly been watertight either with 22 goals conceded in the league, the third worst total. Injuries haven't helped, with key figures like David Gray and Darren McGregor missing for long stretches, while Ryan Porteous was absent to begin the campaign and is suspended for Saturday. The defence will therefore have to be held together by club stalwarts Hanlon and Lewis Stevenson.

Stevie Mallan (Hibernian)
It was tempting to go for Scott Allan but we know exactly what to expect from the playmaker - and, more important, Celtic will know exactly what to expect from their former player. Mallan is a more intriguing case. The ex-St Mirren star is a threat from set-pieces and shooting from outside the area. He can also be a rangy passer and bring an extra source of creativity from midfield. What Hibs don't want is a repeat of the performances where the game passes him by for spells.

Ryan Christie (Celtic)
The Celtic playmaker has been in fantastic form and should be refreshed and raring to go this weekend having sat out two of the last three league games through suspension. More than his playmaker and goalscoring abilities, which are both among the elite in this country, it's his industry that really sets him apart from players at his position. Christie covers an incredible amount of ground in any given match and routinely robs opponents of the ball in areas where they can be hurt the most. Hibs will have to do their best to keep him quiet both on and off the ball.

Kristoffer Ajer (Celtic)
This inclusion isn't so much for his defensive abilities, though he'll obviously have to stay switched on throughout the 90 minutes to ensure Celtic don't give their opponents something to hold on to. No, his greatest influence could actually come at the other end of the park. As witnessed against Aberdeen last weekend, Ajer can be a legitimate threat by advancing play through the lines of the opposition. If Hibs choose to sit back and let Celtic come at them then someone like Ajer can make sure they have to pay attention to all 10 outfield players and not just those in attacking areas.

Odsonne Edouard (Celtic)
This is an obvious choice but it's one that has to be made. Edouard is arguably the best footballer in the country at the moment as the leading striker on the eight-time reigning champions. The Frenchman's composure in front of goal is unmatched by just about any other forward, while he's got the strength, pace and skill to exploit defences from just about anywhere on the park. He was the match-winner the last time Celtic were at Hampden, scoring twice in the 2-1 win over Hearts in the Scottish Cup final, and it would be no surprise if he repeated that performance on Saturday.

Travel advice for fans coming to the match - https://spfl.co.uk/news/betfred-cup-travel-advice

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