It’s remarkable how quickly a football team can change. A year ago, we took to the Hampden turf for the Betfred Cup final against Aberdeen. Victory over Derek McInnes’ side assured a seventh successive domestic trophy and the first part of a third successive treble.
This Sunday, we will go for our tenth successive tournament win in Scotland against our biggest rivals. It may be only 12 months on from our last success in the competition but the change in our starting line-up could hardly be more stark.
Brendan Rodgers has left, with Neil Lennon replacing him. But the changes only start there. This Celtic side is pretty unrecognisable from the team that tasted glory at Hampden in 2018. Let’s take a look at the changes.
The Celtic team: a year on
Our back five that started that game against the Dons was Scott Bain, Mikael Lustig, Dedryck Boyata, Filip Benkovic and Kieran Tierney. Only Bain didn’t leave in the summer, but he’s now considered third choice keeper and is extremely unlikely to even make Sunday’s matchday squad.
Our defence against Rangers will likely be made up of at least three summer signings – experiencing a Hampden final for the first time.
The reliable Scottish trio of Ryan Christie, Callum McGregor and James Forrest all played last year’s final and it would be a huge surprise if any missed this year’s version. Tom Rogic and Scott Sinclair both started the game against Aberdeen too, showing just how much things can change in a year.
Odsonne Edouard should repeat his start from last year if he comes through some fitness worries, but if he doesn’t, that will be another big change 12 months on.
Hampden clash is vital for Lennon’s new-look side
That’s why this tournament is just as important for ourselves as it is Rangers. Many have speculated about the importance of the Ibrox side coming out on top because it would be their first major trophy. But success this weekend would also be a first for Neil Lennon’s new-look Celtic.
The likes of Christopher Jullien, Boli Bolingoli, Mohamed Elyounoussi and Jeremie Frimpong are yet to taste trophy success with the club. The effect a victory would have on them can not be underestimated.
So much has changed at Celtic over the past year. Almost everything except one constant: winning. Hopefully a new victorious team can take their first steps in the National Stadium on Sunday.