Sir Kenny Dalglish: The bad news for Derek and his players is that, after Celtic’s win in Norway, today’s Final just got a whole lot tougher

Celtic manager Brendan Rodgers celebrates with Kieran Tierney at full time.

BRENDAN Rodgers has had his team playing some terrific football in the past six weeks.

Celtic look as good as untouchable to the rest of the Scottish clubs.

But Aberdeen manager Derek McInnes must find a way to make this first domestic final of the season a contest.

I would imagine he will not differ too much from the way he set up against Rangers in the Betfred Cup semi-final.

They soaked up pressure and timed their moment to perfection to hit Rangers from a set-piece when Lewis Ferguson scored a headed winner with 10 minutes or so remaining.

That afternoon Steven Gerrard’s players did create chances, but they weren’t lethal enough in the final third. They should have worked Joe Lewis more often than they did.

So the Dons will need to be even more compact and secure than they were in the semi. And they’ll need to defend much better than last week’s unacceptable performance when they lost 3-0 away to Motherwell in the League.

Another similar display to that against Celtic and the Hoops will absolutely stroll to victory.

But even if Aberdeen play their finest game of the season, that may well still not be enough to win the game.

Let’s be honest, with all respect to the men from the Granite City, it’s hard to see anything other than a win for the current holders of the trophy.

What will be interesting is the starting line-up that Rodgers goes for.

Scott Brown came on against Rosenborg but I don’t think he will start today.

There is no real need to throw him in and it could well be he starts on the bench and is brought on during the play.

If victory is in sight, Brendan might feel he wants to put his captain on the field to be there to lift the trophy, and there is absolutely nothing wrong with that.

But it’s not as though Brown is going to weaken the team. If anything, he will enhance it.

It just goes to show, once again, the riches that Brendan has in his squad.

In domestic terms, with the quality of player he has to choose from for several areas of the pitch, he is in a fabulous position.

Of course, he has had five transfer windows and nice sums of money made available to build this side, so they should be stronger than any other competitor on Scotland.

I’m going for a comfortable 2-0 Celtic win.

And if all of that wasn’t daunting enough for the Dons, Celtic go into today’s showpiece on the back of an excellent victory away to Rosenborg in the Europa League, which will only increase their chances of lifting the trophy.

I’m sure Derek McInnes and his players would have preferred a win for the Norwegians.

A loss in such a game may well have resulted in players feeling a wee bit leggy, and maybe a little bit of negativity would have been aimed at them from the outside.

The exact opposite is the case.

The result in Norway means they only need a point from their final game, at home to Salzburg, to get through to the last 32.

Celtic will deserve enormous credit if they can pull that off.

Likewise, Rangers have managed to take it to the final game of their section after the 0-0 draw at home to Villarreal.

It was a more-than-credible result from Steven and his men, especially as they played the whole of the second half with 10 men after the dismissal of Daniel Candeias.

It leaves them needing a victory away at Rapid Vienna.

In the past three months they have accumulated good results to leave themselves with a fighting chance.

When you go into any game, especially in Europe, you want to know you have a right good goalkeeper in place, and in Allan McGregor, Rangers have that.

He has been outstanding for the team and often looks unbeatable.

At the other end, they will create chances in Austria and it’s up to the players to convert creativity into goals.

It’s going to be a tall order to win any game away from home, but I’ve a feeling Steven and his players will pull it off.

However, if they don’t have quite enough to get over the finishing line and into the last 32, they can absolutely still hold their heads high for what they have achieved in Europe in the past six months.

Of that there is no doubt.

What is up in the air is their relationship with the SFA right now.

Now, I’m not condoning criticism of referees and officials when it goes too far. But there has to be an element of free speech allowed in our game.

Rangers felt they had a right to voice an opinion when they questioned the performance of Willie Collum in the recent game against St Mirren in Paisley when Candeias was sent off for a second yellow card after an “incident” with Anton Ferdinand.

That has led to the SFA charging Rangers with bringing the game into disrepute, and they have until Tuesday to respond.

This is going to be an interesting case.

I’m not one for open warfare between member clubs and the game’s hierarchy. Not in any shape or form.

But I do think the people in the corridors of power need to be very careful.

Depending on the level of punishment, if indeed the charges are upheld, Rangers may feel the need to take this all the way.

Let’s not forget that match officials, and people within the SFA in other jobs, do make mistakes and should be taken to task if it’s so required.

We only need to be reminded of the circumstances surrounding chief executive, Stewart Regan’s exit from the SFA to know that everyone should be accountable.

It’s not always right to point the finger of blame at the clubs.

Cancel