The 3 key battles that will decide the Betfred Cup final
St Johnstone are in better form and defeated Livingston 2-0 when the sides met recently in the league at Almondvale, but David Martindale’s narrow pre-match favourites do lead their opponents in the Scottish Premiership table by seven points and defeated them twice earlier in the campaign.
In order to get a better idea of who’s likely to come out on top, here's what to watch out for on Sunday:
Shaun Rooney v Livingston’s left-hand side
It appeared a major blow to St Johnstone’s season when impressive wing-back Danny McNamara was recalled by Millwall in the January window, but thanks to the form of Rooney they haven’t missed a beat. In fact, they’ve probably improved as a result. The defender gallops with the momentum of a Grand National winner down the flank all game and is so tough to stop.
The identity of his wing opponents won’t be known until Sunday. Livi’s first-choice XI has been pretty consistent in a number of areas this term, but the left side hasn’t been one of them. Jullien Serrano will be expected to start at full-back, though it could be anyone from Alan Forrest, Craig Sibbald, Josh Mullin or Scott Robinson ahead of him. They’ll not only have to help the Spaniard keep an eye on Rooney, they’ll also need to attack the space between him and centre-back Jason Kerr, who also likes a foray forward.
David Wotherspoon (and/or Craig Conway) v Jon Guthrie
St Johnstone have attempted the second highest number of crosses in the Scottish Premiership this term. It’s a major part of Callum Davidson’s gameplan and something Livi will have to be vary of, especially as they sit second worst for goals conceded from set pieces. Craig Conway typically takes them when Davidson starts with two No.10s behind a lone striker, but if the manager opts for two centre-forwards, as he did in the recent win at Motherwell, then the onus will instead fall on David Wotherspoon.
Rooney, Kerr, Liam Gordon and Jamie McCart are all major threats in the air. Livingston may not have enough big bodies to deal with them all, though they do have Jon Guthrie. The centre-back is in the top 10 in the league for winning aerial battles in his own box, while he’s also quite adept at causing havoc in the opposing area with five goals scored thus far.
Ali McCann v Jason Holt
There will be at least two players with a real veteran presence in the midfield area. With Murray Davidson a major doubt due to injury, Liam Craig will likely start for Saints, while Marvin Bartley will lead out the Lions. However, those two will sit a little deeper, so we’ve gone for their respective midfield partners. Both do very same roles for their side, playing No.8 roles where they’re expected to use their energy to pick up second-balls, disrupt the opposition and get forward to support the attack.
There will not be a lot of time in the midfield area in which to impose oneself. Whichever of the two opponents manages this will really swing the balance of power in his side’s favour.
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