The draw for the quarter finals of the Scottish Cup was made on Monday night following a thrilling Highland Derby that finished two goals apiece in Dingwall. With Ross County and Inverness set to face each other again – and still the small matter of Rangers and Kilmarnock’s replay to take place at Ibrox – we’re still not entirely sure what the last eight of the Cup will look like, but the raw ingredients are in place for a fascinating round of fixtures.
ABERDEEN V KILMARNOCK/RANGERS
This match at Pittodrie will be the tie of the round in all likelihood and Aberdeen boss Derek McInnes will be all too aware that no matter which side joins them in the last eight, the Dons will be in for a hard ninety minutes.
Rangers won the two sides’ last encounter last week in a controversial and tempestuous match and there is little doubt that another meeting between the two sides would likely produce a similar blood-and-thunder display from both teams. As is stands, Aberdeen have won two and drawn one of their four encounters against Steven Gerrard’s Rangers this season, so there is reason for McInnes’ side to be optimistic.
Should Kilmarnock overcome Rangers and reach the quarter-finals, then McInnes will still be up against one of the most formidable teams in Scotland at present. The two clubs’ three encounters so far this season have all been tightly-contested and picking a winner is nigh-impossible. Greg Stewart will know he’ll be in for another tough match against his old club, should Steve Clarke’s side do the business at Ibrox, and Kilmarnock will take heart from the fact that they themselves are unbeaten in two visits to the Granite City so far this campaign.
DUNDEE UNITED V ROSS COUNTY/INVERNESS CALEDONIAN THISTLE
An all-Championship tie awaits the winner of the Highland Derby replay and both of the potential quarter-finalists will be delighted to have avoided top flight opposition. Dundee United have certainly improved since Robbie Neilson took charge and with almost an entire starting eleven of new players recruited in the January transfer window, the Arabs look like they mean business going into the second half of the campaign.
Neilson will be delighted with a home draw as Dundee United boast one of the best home records in the second tier of Scottish football, but they remain far from invincible at Tannadice. Ross County, should they advance to the last eight, will feel particularly confident about a trip to Tayside; the last time they visited, the battered Neilson’s side 5-1.
Neilson would probably prefer that Inverness knocked out their Highland rivals, given the fact that Caley Thistle are currently trailing County in the Championship standings, but Inverness can take heart from the fact that they are unbeaten against United this season. Both league encounters have finished as a draw, and manager John Robertson will no doubt be optimistic about his side’s chances, if they can see off County at home during their replay next week.
PARTICK THISTLE V HEARTS
Gary Caldwell’s Partick Thistle moved bottom of the Championship at the weekend when they were busy competing in the last sixteen of the Scottish Cup and the cup run will no doubt be providing some relief to the Firhill faithful who have so far had an underwhelming 2018/19. Relegation remains a very real concern for the Maryhill club, but a trip to Hampden could go a long way top placating the home support.
Hearts were the opponents the last time Thistle reached this stage of this competition back in 2006 and while a home tie certainly suits the Championship strugglers, Craig Levein’s men will surely remain favourites for the tie. The Tynecastle club struggled towards the end of 2018 as they became bogged down with injuries, but Levein now has almost an entirely injury-free squad of players to choose from.
Uche Ikpeazu’s return to the first-team will give the Thistle defence plenty to think about and we’ve previously covered the incredible impact Steven Naismith makes for the Edinburgh club every time he starts for Levein’s side. Hearts host Celtic in the league a few days before the cup tie, so Levein may well be forced into rotating his squad against the Jags.
HIBERNIAN V CELTIC
The current holders of the Scottish Cup face a tricky trip to Leith but will be feeling very confident after setting a new record win streak in both domestic cup competitions. Brendan Rodgers is yet to slip up in a Scottish Cup or League Cup match since taking charge of Celtic in the summer of 2016 and the champions will be the heavy favourites going into this one.
Having said that, they will be facing a new-look Hibernian that will most likely be under the guidance of Michael Appleton, so the Leith club could be something of an unknown prospect by the time the two sides meet next month. If Appleton can extend Neil Lennon’s excellent home record against Celtic – the Northern Irishman never lost at Easter Road to Rodgers’ side – then this could be the game where Celtic’s winning run comes to an end.
Rodgers will be wary of the threat posed by Hibs in Leith but his side will still be the odds-on favourite to progress and go on to lift the trophy in May. Barring a trip to Ibrox, a draw away to Easter Road is probably the trickiest tie that Celtic could have been given and Rodgers’ side will have to be at their best to progress to the semis.