This time last season Celtic were knocked out of the Scottish Cup. But it was that pain which has led to an unprecedented season for the club. A euphoria, which could be one step closer after this Sunday.
Having performed poorly against Rangers but still taking the game to penalties, the Hoops had plenty to ponder as Ronny Deila’s men failed to win any domestic cup competition last season. Last season in many ways highlighted the regression happening throughout the entire football club. There was little heart or desire in the side, as well as a lack of interest from many within the club. How different that is 12 months on.
However, Celtic have to be mindful of what happened last season because the exact same arrogance can cost them the match. In the lead up to the game, the Hoops were labelled as heavy favourites and while Celtic had much more quality in their team as opposed to their opposition, they failed to ultimately win the match. Over the 120 mins Celtic simply didn’t play well enough but they did still create chances.
This same arrogance did cost Brendan Rodgers’ side only a month ago, with many thinking that the home game against their opponents would be a comfortable victory. It was far from it. If anything it was a little reminder that if the Hoops don’t play to the level they should, teams will take advantage of them.
One big aspect for Celtic on Sunday is to have that winning mentality back into their heads for what is the biggest match of the season so far. The treble hinges on Sunday’s game and so far this campaign when the Hoops have had something to play for, they usually play to their maximum level. A mentality like the one we saw at Tynecastle at the beginning of the month is exactly what we need.
Too many times on previous occasions have semi-finals been the cause of concern for Celtic. Painful losses to the likes of Ross County and Inverness on past occasions at Hampden should spur on the Celtic side. None more so than that defeat on penalties last season.
Some of the players also have a point to prove on Sunday. A lot of the team last season who played in that semi-final did not perform well enough. Tom Rogic’s missed penalty and Patrick Roberts open goal miss, will undoubtedly be on their minds on Sunday. They will seek to right the wrongs and perform this time round.
Leigh Griffiths, who has been plagued by injuries this season, hit the woodwork twice in that semi-final. He too will want to score if he gets the chance – and will most likely start on the bench. Rodgers will fire them up to play the best football this season like we seen in the League Cup semi-final meeting in October.
Experiencing the pain before euphoria has been a common theme for Celtic in previous years. Losing out on qualifying for the Champions League was a horrible experience but this season the Hoops enjoyed being back in Europe’s elite competition.
The same too could be said for Celtic domestically. For the past few seasons Celtic have failed to dominate the entirety of Scottish football but now are on the brink of doing so if they win this Sunday and then the Scottish Cup final.
Last season’s Scottish Cup exit ignited the inner flame for Celtic. It forced them to make the change the club and the fans needed after some less than complementary celebrations in the stands. Now the Celtic faithful are reaping the rewards of some of the best football they’ve seen in years.
? | Ahead of Sunday's Scottish Cup semi-final, here's all 9 Celtic goals against Rangers this season pic.twitter.com/s7kt5XplpZ
— Read Celtic (@ReadCeltic) April 20, 2017
If anything has been learned between last year’s meeting between the two sides and the one in March, it’s that regardless of who the opponents are or who officiates the game, if Celtic play to their maximum capability then they should progress into the final of the Scottish Cup. If they are complacent and allow the opposition to dictate play then Rodgers’ side may come unstuck.
Experiencing euphoria this season has been a massive catalyst towards the club and fans finally merging together as one. On Sunday, Rodgers’ side and the Celtic fans will come together as one, as the Hoops face a battle to get into the final and take one more step towards the coveted domestic treble.