Sunday, March 18, 2012

League Cup: Winners and losers

Celtic win the league cup. Quite a lot.

Kilmarnock don't win the leage cup. Not at all.

That, basically, is the backstory to a game that pitches the 14 times winners against a team that have lost on their five previous visits to the Scottish League Cup final.

This season Kilmarnock have blown hot and cold as their manager has blown mildly entertaining hot air.

Celtic are greedily eyeing up a treble and don't look like fluffing their lines.

Game over, then, before we've even begun?

No.

I expect Celtic to win this and I'd be surprised if they don't.

But Kilmarnock can spring surprises and, as much as the side has weaknesses and Kenny Shiels is not immune to mistakes, they've got players who can compete, entertain and impress.

Dundee United showed in the initial skirmishes of their cup tie last week that there are occasions when Celtic can look rattled.

The trick when that happens is to take advantage and not do anything stupid. Dundee United failed on both counts last week. Kilmarnock would do well to learn from United's mistakes.

That's if Kilmarnock can spring a surprise. The resources at Neil Lennon's disposal and his willingness to ring the changes means he's perfectly capable of bowling the odd googly his own.

It's not fatalistic to gift Celtic the favourites tag. It's simply common sense.

Celtic are better than Kilmarnock. And they should prove that today.

They might not and that's one of the reasons that cup games can still grab our attention.

But they probably will.

Still, hope springs eternal. And for Kilmarnock there is hope in the very statistics that might appear to condemn them.

Yes, Kilmarnock have lost five league cup finals and yes, Celtic have won 14 league cup finals.

But Celtic have also lost 14 league cup finals.

If they lose a fifteenth today then Kenny Shiels will be able to conclusively prove that Celtic are actually three times worse in the Scottish League Cup than Kilmarnock are.

Or something.

Prediction: Celtic 3 v Kilmarnock 1

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