Scottish League Cup final: Celtic v Aberdeen

Brendan Rodgers and Derek McInnes with the Scottish League Cup
Brendan Rodgers’ Celtic face Aberdeen, led by Derek McInnes, in Sunday’s Scottish League Cup final

BBC coverage

How to follow:
Listen on BBC Radio Scotland; text commentary on the BBC Sport website

Since taking charge of Celtic in the summer of 2016, Brendan Rodgers has won every piece of silverware on offer in Scotland.

The Northern Irishman led the club to back-to-back domestic trebles in his first two seasons and goes for a seventh successive trophy in Sunday’s League Cup final at 15:00 GMT.

Standing in his and Celtic’s path are Aberdeen.

Despite mixed form this season, Derek McInnes’ men have seen off heavyweight opponents in Hibernian and Rangers to book their place at Hampden. They are seasoned finalists and have finished second to Celtic in the past four Scottish Premiership campaigns.

Can they derail the champions’ quest for yet more glory? Or will Celtic’s trophy spree continue?

Rodgers: King of the cups

In the big domestic games, when the pressure is on, Rodgers’ Celtic teams deliver.

Under his stewardship, Celtic have won 21 cup ties in a row, scoring 67 goals and conceding only seven.

While they have occasionally slipped up in the league, their focus has never wavered on cup duty.

“That’s one of the things that makes this final so daunting for Aberdeen – the almost certain knowledge that Celtic will not make their job easier by throwing in a dud of a performance,” says BBC Scotland’s chief sports writer, Tom English.

Brendan Rodgers' cup record as Celtic manager
Brendan Rodgers has led Celtic to 21 consecutive cup victories

Rodgers v McInnes: How do they stack up?

This is Aberdeen’s fourth final since McInnes was appointed in 2013, and their third time in the League Cup showpiece with him at the helm.

The former Scotland midfielder famously ended the club’s 19-year wait for silverware in his first season at Pittodrie by winning this tournament.

But he has struggled to get the better of Rodgers, winning only one of 11 Celtic-Aberdeen duels between the pair. His team has scored just four goals across those fixtures.

Aberdeen lost both cup finals to all-conquering Celtic in 2016-17 and McInnes is working with a vastly smaller budget than the cash Rodgers has to spend. On average, Dons players get paid less than a sixth of the salary of their Celtic counterparts.

Brendan Rodgers and Derek McInnes head-to-head
Brendan Rodgers has won 10 of 11 meetings with Derek McInnes

What about the form book?

Aberdeen have not been in scintillating league form this term. They sit seventh in the Premiership with 21 points from 13 games. They have scored only 16 times and conceded 13 goals.

Their top scorer is a winger, the former Celtic man Gary Mackay-Steven, who has netted three league goals, and they have found it hard to pinpoint an effective replacement for departed striker Adam Rooney.

Still, the Dons were on a four-match winning run until last weekend, when it was abruptly halted by a 3-0 defeat at Motherwell.

After a difficult start to the campaign, Celtic top the standings with eight more points than their cup final foes. They have racked up almost double Aberdeen’s league goal tally (30) and conceded less than half (six).

And Celtic have not lost a domestic game since September.

Team news – Bain starts in goal

Scott Bain will start ahead of Craig Gordon in goal for the holders after playing in all the earlier rounds. Captain Scott Brown is looking to regain his starting place after making his comeback from injury off the bench during Thursday’s Europa League win over Rosenborg.

Kristoffer Ajer, Eboue Kouassi, Daniel Arzani and Nir Bitton remain sidelined. Jozo Simunovic, Mikey Johnston and Marvin Compper are unlikely to feature because of fitness issues.

Aberdeen defender Michael Devlin faces a battle to make the final after being given an outside chance of recovering from a foot injury.

Another two centre-backs – Tommie Hoban and Mark Reynolds – remain out while midfielder Greg Tansey is yet to feature after recovering from a groin problem.

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Gordon ‘will do his bit’ to help Bain

McInnes taps into wisdom of Ferguson – what they said

Celtic manager Brendan Rodgers: “It shows an incredible consistency and hunger which is what you want as a manager. Celtic notoriously is a winning club. So when you play for Celtic you have to win, but of course, we want to win in the best way we possibly can, which is playing a really aggressive attacking style of football.

“What has been admirable is the focus and intensity of the players. They’ve just kept going and going to keep winning titles. We don’t aim to stop, our idea is to have that hunger to keep going and we want to do that again come Sunday.”

Aberdeen manager Derek McInnes: “I always remember Sir Alex Ferguson saying to me after we’d lost the 3-0 League Cup final against Celtic [in 2016] that only by revisiting surroundings and familiarity that players start to feel at home and more capable of delivering a performance.

“He said he had international players who played 400-500 top-flight games but didn’t turn up in the final. He said sometimes it can happen but by revisiting it you get more familiar with your surroundings.

“I feel we’re at that. It has helped us being here so often in the last little while. We know Celtic have that and we feel that Aberdeen now belong here and feel at home here.”

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