Let’s get physical
Motherwell admitted they set out to bully Rangers in the semi-final and the approach worked, but not without criticism. Ryan Bowman was at the centre of the fuss after breaking Fabio Cardoso’s nose when using his arm to jump for the ball.
The incident went unpunished as did Cardoso’s similar challenge which left Louis Moult needing stitches. Referee Steven McLean’s performance prompted Celtic manager Brendan Rodgers to raise concerns, both publicly and privately with the referees’ association. The experienced Craig Thomson will consequently be under added scrutiny in the final.
Celtic clinched their fourth domestic clean sweep last season as Rodgers followed in the footsteps of Jock Stein and Martin O’Neill and Sunday gives the Ladbrokes Premiership leaders the chance to set up another treble shot.
But the League Cup final has not always been kind to Celtic – defeats ultimately cost Stein’s side four more trebles in the 1970s than the two they earlier claimed, and they have lost 14 of their previous 23 League Cup finals.
King Louis or Super Leigh?
Rodgers is likely to go with either Leigh Griffiths or Moussa Dembele up front but Motherwell usually play with both Moult and Bowman.
The Motherwell pair have out-fired their Celtic counterparts this season with 20 goals between them to Griffiths and Dembele’s 16. Moult, the Ladbrokes Premiership top goalscorer, is the dangerman for Motherwell after his two strikes at Aberdeen took his tally for the season to 14 –six of them in the Betfred Cup.
Northern Irish managers do battle for first time
Rodgers and Stephen Robinson face each other for the first time as managers.
The latter has emulated Rodgers in several areas since keeping Motherwell up last season in the first few weeks of his reign as he has quickly transformed their fortunes as well as instilling a consistency and winning mentality.
Their styles are different with Robinson building a team on a powerful base with hard-running wing-backs and midfielders full of energy and bite.
But he showed a tactical nous when changing his system for last weekend’s league victory against Aberdeen at Pittodrie and the technical area will be a key battleground tomorrow.