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Sunday 31st January 2016

Likely line-ups at Hampden

Craig Fowler takes a look at how the teams might line up in this afternoon’s Scottish League Cup semi-final at Hampden Park.

Craig Fowler takes a look at how the teams might line up in this afternoon’s Scottish League Cup semi-final at Hampden Park.

Ross County

Jamie Reckord could start at left-back instead of Richard Foster but the pair have been fairly even in terms of performances this season, with Foster maybe even getting the nudge, and the ex-Rangers man started in the win over Motherwell, so he's more likely to get the nod.

Paul Quinn has re-signed from Aberdeen and is available for selection, but it would be quite a risk for Jim McIntyre to throw him into the centre of defence against the strongest team in the country. Chris Robertson was the preferred partner for Andrew Davies earlier this season, though he's recently been less involved.

Jim McIntyre may deviate away from a 4-5-1 variation, which he used in both previous matches against Celtic this season, and go with the club's preferred 4-4-2 system. County didn't give a good account of themselves early in the last encounter at the Global Energy Stadium, after performing well at Celtic Park earlier in the campaign, and looked stronger once they switched formations.

Jackson Irvine broke his nose against Motherwell last week but still finished the match, so it's assumed he'll don a protective mask or bandage to play in the semi-final. The Australian formed a good partnership with Ian McShane in the win over Motherwell and they should remain together.

There are numerous options for County on the flanks with only Michael Gardyne almost certain of playing. Stewart Murdoch will likely get the nod, however, after an impressive cameo last week.

Up front
If County want to go with the more familiar 4-4-2 formation then they'll need the forward line to do a lot of defending from the front. So even though he scored in their last game, Brian Graham could miss out for an Alex Schalk and Craig Curran partnership. Neither are particularly big, so there may be an issue with holding the ball up, but their dynamism could make up for it as they look to give the Celtic backline the run around.

If Liam Boyce is fit, it's likely he'll play. However, McIntyre still qualifies him as a serious doubt for the match.

GK - Scott Fox
DR - Marcus Fraser
DC - Andrew Davies
DC - Scott Boyd
DL - Ricky Foster
MR - Stewart Murdoch
MC - Jackson Irvine
MC - Ian McShane
ML - Michael Gardyne
FC - Alex Schalk
FC - Craig Curran


Ronny Deila could turn to Emilio Izaguirre given Kieran Tierney's young age and the pressurised atmosphere of this match. However, he's shown faith in the youngster in the past, granting him starts against Aberdeen and in Europe, so it's likely he'll stick with the 18-year-old.

New signing Erik Sviatchenko will likely not make his first appearance in a game of this magnitude, while there's been little to suggest Efe Ambrose deserves to drop out of the side for Dedryck Boyata. The rest are almost certain to start.

If Tom Rogic is fit to play then he deserves to be in from the start. It will depend on whether he is at 100% and capable of playing 90 (or even 120) minutes. if that's the case look for Callum McGregor, who has been a mainstay in recent weeks, to move over to the wing with Gary Mackay-Steven dropping out.

Fans have been encouraged by Stefan Johansen's form over the last month. The Norwegian finally appears to be shaking off the injury problems that hampered his performances earlier in the campaign.

Up front
There is absolutely no danger that anyone else other than Celtic's leading goalscorer Leigh Griffiths starts if he's fit.

GK - Craig Gordon
DR - Mikael Lustig
DC - Jozo Simunovic
DC - Efe Ambrose
DL - Kieran Tierney
DM - Stefan Johansen
DM - Nir Bitton
MR - Gary Mackay-Steven
MC - Callum McGregor
ML - Stuart Armstrong
FC - Leigh Griffiths