Scottish League Cup final: Free-scoring Morelos to gift Gerrard first trophy as Rangers boss
Old Firm rivals Rangers and Celtic clash at Hampden in the League Cup final on Sunday. Betfair's Frankie Monkhouse expects a thriller...
Rangers v Celtic Sunday, 15:00 Live on BT Sport
First final since 2011
It's the final of the 2019 Scottish League Cup and we have a thriller in store as Glasgow rivals Rangers and Celtic face-off at the national stadium to decide the first piece of silverware of the Scottish season. Will Celtic tick off the opening leg in their bid for an astonishing fourth domestic treble in-a-row or will Rangers lift the famous trophy for the first time since 2011?
The Old Firm haven't contested a League Cup final since 20 March 2011. Rangers came out on top that day, nicking a tense final thanks to an extra-time winner from Nikica Jelavic. That game finished 1-1 after 90 minutes, a Steven Davis opener cancelled out by Joe Ledley.
A result that is remembered fondly by followers of the bears, but is it time for the current team to make their own memories or will an all-conquering Hoops slap down their neighbours and prove themselves to be the major force in football north of the border? It'll be great fun finding out.
Morelos sinks Hearts in semi-final
Rangers will take part in their first cup final since Steven Gerrard took charge. They booked their place in the decider thanks to an impressive and comfortable win over managerless Hearts at this venue. The light blues went into the break with a 1-0 lead thanks to a cool finish from defender Filip Helander. In form striker Alfredo Morelos netted a second half double to send his employers through and the pressure will be on the young Columbian to do something similar against Celtic on Sunday.
Morelos helped himself to two goals in a pulsating draw away to Feyenoord in the Europa League last week and was also on the scoresheet against Porto home and away. He has been attracting the attention of big-name clubs across Europe and it looks a matter of when he will depart Glasgow, rather than if. Gerrard and his coaching staff will be desperate to hold onto their prized asset, at least until summer.
Lennon has won over the doubters
There were a few murmurs of discontent amongst Celtic fans when Neil Lennon was chosen to replace Brendan Rodgers, but Lenny has hit the ground running during his second spell at Parkhead. The Northern Irishman led his side to the knockout stages of the Europa League, ensuring there will be European football played in Glasgow after Christmas. The Hoops also claimed an early season win at Ibrox and are betting favourites to defend their Scottish Premiership title.
All is rosy in the garden of Celtic but that will change if they suffer their first League Cup final defeat since March 2012 when beaten 1-0 at Hampden by Kilmarnock, an upset achieved thanks to a goal from Belgian striker Dieter Van Tornhout with 84 minutes on the clock. The Hoops were at their best when hammering French Ligue 1 outfit Rennes at Parkhead recently. Lewis Morgan netted only his second Celtic goal to hand his teammates a lead and they strolled to the points thanks to strikes from Ryan Christie and Mikey Johnston.
Punters side with Celtic
The competition stats have Rangers as the League Cup's most successful team on 27 titles to Celtic's 18. The head-to-head also has Gers slightly in front, the scores currently sitting at Rangers 24-23 Celtic with two draws. The latter is sure to put followers of the form off a level finish, although the rivals did battle out a 1-1 in their most recent League Cup final.
Despite the stats supporting a Rangers win, the Betfair Exchange tells a different story, pricing Celtic as the most likely champions. The holders are chasing a fourth competition win in-a-row. Backers will find The Bhoys as betting favourites with 2.26 available. Will the 2019 Scottish League Cup be Steven Gerrard's first trophy as manager? 3.25 says it will. The draw appeals at 3.50.
Take no both teams to score
Sticking with the stats and each of the last three League Cup finals has seen at least one team fail to find the net. That's also true in five of the last six. Looking at recent Old Firm matches we note the last two meetings have produced a win to nil, as well as six of the seven most recent games. Taking no in the both teams to score on the Betfair Exchange gives followers a crack at 2.14.
Scottish League Cup finals have been low-scoring events in recent years and, ahead of what's sure to be a tense decider involving the bitter Glasgow rivals, it's safe to assume we'll see something similar on Sunday. Under 2.5 goals at 1.97 makes more sense than over the same mark at 1.83.