Jack Ross says Hibernian are hugely motivated to beat local rivals Hearts and claim a place in the Scottish Cup final.
Hibs won the trophy in 2016 for the first time in 114 years – and are aiming to reach the final for a 15th time this weekend.
The semi-finals have been delayed from last season due to the coronavirus pandemic, meaning there will be no European place for the winners for the first time since 1960.
But Ross says that will not diminish his squad’s determination to claim a place in the final against Celtic or Aberdeen on December 20.
“I have certainly not sensed any less excitement or determination about the players and staff this week,” said Ross.
“So, going from the experience of being involved on a day-to day basis in the lead-up to a semi final, I would say no.
“I can understand why people believe that to be the case.
“But, for us certainly, the opportunity to reach a final and to potentially win a cup, it has not been devalued at all in terms of the timing of the matches and the timing of the final, should we reach it.”
Hibernian captain Paul Hanlon was part of that cup-winning side in 2016 – and he thinks Hearts will provide a tough test, even though they are currently in the Championship while Hibs are third in the top flight.
Hanlon said: “I think it’s going to be a massive test.
“They are a squad that has got good players in it and they have started their season well, so it is going to be a difficult game.
“But on the flip side, we have started the season great, we have got a number of games under our belt now that we have performed well in.
“It’s an Edinburgh derby and that in itself makes it a massive game but, on top of that, being a semi-final of the national cup, it is a huge game.
“It is a big disappointment that there won’t be any fans in the stadium but it is a massive match for both clubs and the city, and we want to come out on top.”
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Hearts and Hibernian meet in an Edinburgh derby on Saturday while Celtic and Aberdeen face each other on Sunday, just a week after a dramatic 3-3 draw in the Scottish Premiership; keep up-to-date with the latest scores from both games across Sky Sports’ digital platforms
Football Expert & Columnist
Thursday 29 October 2020 16:45, UK
There are two huge Scottish Cup semi-finals this weekend and Andy Walker gives his preview and predictions of the matches at Hampden Park.
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Hearts vs Hibernian – Saturday, 5pm
I am not entirely convinced the Scottish Cup should be played to a finish when it will be 16 months since the competition started before we eventually get a winner on December 20.
The league may have been called early, but bizarrely, the Scottish Cup has the chance to conclude and I’m convinced the sense of injustice felt over the summer months will be used by manager Robbie Neilson when he takes his squad to Glasgow on Saturday.
He has a good level of experience to call upon in goalkeeper Craig Gordon, goalscorer Liam Boyce and Scotland international Steven Naismith. It’s a squad that looks by far and away the strongest in the Championship and with two league wins out of two already over Dundee and Arbroath, it’s been a positive start.
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However, they are up against a Hibs side who have also made a marvellous start to their season, sitting in third place in the Scottish Premiership and boasting of international players of their own.
Defender Ryan Porteous was called up by Steve Clarke to the national squad and both Paul McGinn and Paul Hanlon soon joined him. What a boost for everyone at Easter Road to see three players recognised at a higher level for their fine form.
Kevin Nisbet already has seven goals to his name since joining from Dunfermline and he’s made the step up in class look easy. At this rate, maybe he too will receive international recognition from Steve.
Nisbet is well supported by Christian Doidge and Martin Boyle and it is their combination play that has seen Hibs get the upper hand and win the majority of their games so far.
Given that Hibs have already played a quarter of the season, they should be well tuned to a demanding fixture whereas Hearts are still finding their feet after a couple of cup ties to add to their two league games. I think it will make all the difference.
Andy predicts: Hearts 1-3 Hibs
Celtic vs Aberdeen – Sunday, 2.30pm
Given their recent form, Aberdeen must feel as if this could be their time to get to another Scottish Cup final.
Not only has their form been very good with an impressive mixture of goalscorers, they were a match for Celtic last weekend in that thrilling 3-3 draw at Pittodrie.
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In Lewis Ferguson, Derek McInnes has a player for the big occasion. He scored the only goal of the game when Aberdeen beat Rangers in a Scottish League Cup semi-final a couple of years ago at Hampden, proving he can perform on the big occasion. He already has eight goals to his name so far this season.
Ferguson’s previous best was eight for an entire season so he definitely has the ability to score more often. Those who point out his tally is made up of half a dozen from the penalty spot should remember they still count. There is a skill to handling that pressure and scoring regularly from 12 yards.
With Dylan McGeouch out for at least eight weeks with a groin injury picked up at the weekend, McInnes will have to mix things up in the middle of the park.
I was very impressed with the contribution of Scott Wright last weekend. His direct style and determination to take players on gave his team-mates a lift and it is likely he will play from the start.
Having won the last four domestic trophies available, Neil Lennon is fending off talk of a crisis after losing back-to-back games against Rangers and AC Milan followed by a draw at Pittodrie! Such is the way of it in Glasgow. I’m convinced hysteria and extreme reaction will dominate every poor result for both Celtic and Rangers this season given the importance of the league title.
I imagine captain Scott Brown will return to the starting line-up for Celtic, Olivier Ntcham got the nod last weekend but yet again he failed to impress. Brown’s experience of the big occasion can help spur the team on. Leigh Griffiths scored an outstanding goal against Aberdeen last weekend and I also expect him to start.
Celtic’s record at Hampden in recent years has been extraordinary, But with no crowd to inspire them, it should make it easier for the Dons to compete.
Remember, while Celtic travel to France for their Europa League clash with Lille on Thursday night, Aberdeen have the full week without any distractions to prepare for this massive game.
Like last Sunday, this is sure to be close but I am taking Celtic’s know-how and experience of winning big games at Hampden in recent years to give them the edge.
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England know that their best chance of winning the Six Nations this weekend is by piling on the points over Italy, who remain bottom of the table without a point to their name. The battle between England, Ireland and France is almost certain to come down points difference, with their two rivals meeting in Paris, but Jones has been forced into widespread changes given the seven-month gap between matches after the coronavirus pandemic.
The side shows seven personnel changes to the one that defeated Wales 33-30 in March, with Elliot Daly, Manu Tuilagi, Ford, Joe Marler, Courtney Lawes and Mark Wilson all ruled out with injury, while George Kruis is preparing to move to Japan after leaving Saracens.
It means that fit-again Henry Slade returns to the starting XV in the unfamiliar role of inside centre, with Jonathan Joseph outside him in the absence of Tuilagi.
Jonny May and Anthony Watson continue on the wings, but with Daly ruled out with a knee injury George Furbank returns at full-back for the first time since the first two rounds of the championship in February.
Exeter’s Jonny Hill will make his England debut this weekend
A fit-again Mako Vunipola returns at loosehead prop with Maro Itoje joined by Exeter Chiefs’ uncapped lock Jonny Hill in the second row, and with Billy Vunipola fit to start after recovering from the broken arm that ruled him out of the rest of the Six Nations earlier this year, Jones reverts to his favoured back-row unit that impressed at the Rugby World Cup with Tom Curry restored to flanker alongside Sam Underhill.
Uncapped duo Ollie Lawrence and Ollie Thorley provide cover for the backs among the replacements, along with scrum-half Dan Robson, where they are joined by props Ellis Genge and Will Stuart, hooker Tom Dunn, lock Charlie Ewels and back row Ben Earl.
Manchester United fans are no stranger to Dayot Upamecano, a player whom they courted and ultimately rejected as a teenager. The centre-back who Bayern Munich failed to snatch under the Red Bull system’s noses, and has since risen to being possibly the world’s best young centre-back. The quiet, unassuming Frenchman plays in complete contrast to his personality; uncompromising and assertive in defence, deft and audacious with the ball at his feet, regularly stepping into the midfield, slipping through balls into space and even at one stage marauding around 30 yards upfield. Liverpool and United continue to be linked with approaches for him and, despite the occasional unnecessary risk, his ceiling is frighteningly high for a player just who is still only 22-years-old.
Pogba finds harmony in formation
The debate around Paul Pogba’s best position continues to rage, a seemingly insolvable conundrum, and yet tonight, perhaps, Solskjaer finally stumbled upon an answer. Playing a diamond in midfield, Nemanja Matic guarding the defence, Fred scampering maniacally around him, Pogba found his rhythm, the freedom to express himself without the unlimited constraints whereby supporters demand everything from him at once. He assisted Greenwood’s opener, ran well with the ball, and used his vision to pick holes in Leipzig’s defence. There will always be more demanded of him and it was by no means a standout display, but United can ill-afford to leave out a player of his quality. Instead, it must be a mutual relationship, a formula that allows both the team and player to thrive. Tonight, was certainly a step in the right direction.
United’s embarrassment of riches off the bench
It was something of an embarrassment of riches to bring off the bench. Holding onto a one-goal lead, in control but not without nerves, Solskjaer introduced Marcus Rashford and Fernandes. The pair were imperious, practically unplayable, and combined to devastating effect for the second goal as Rashford sprung the offside trap.
The England international, while concerting such incredible efforts off the pitch, was utterly electric from the moment he came on, too fast and skilful for Leipzig’s crumbling defence, his speed and intelligence in a dimension of its own during such a dazzling cameo. The substitutions completely transformed United as a team, and it was an option to which Leipzig simply had no answer.
As full-time neared, and Rashford completed his hat-trick despite selflessly passing Anthony Martial the ball for a penalty, Solskjaer even afforded himself a smile and a giggle in the dugout, because while this might not necessarily be the beginning of a new chapter, you have to savour nights like these, and certainly in this competition, they are only becoming more common.
Utkin, a young Russian attacking midfielder, has yet to be capped at senior international level but his poise in possession, set-piece delivery and willingness to take on shots as often as possible all made him one of the stand-outs in the team.
Krasnodar haven’t started the season well domestically, but they retain players who can take them to a higher level – or else who will be sought out be teams in 2021 transfer windows.
There’s no question about it: Krasnodar came back into the game in the second half, in terms of effort and intensity, partly because there was a roaring crowd behind them.
It wasn’t the most horrendous, intimidating atmosphere European football has ever produced, far from it.
But it was there. It was support. It was backing from the crowd for their players, demanding a more attacking outlet from the players, who responded in kind. It didn’t lead to a result, but the swing in the match was very evident nonetheless.
It has to be a safe return, of course – but many clubs in the Premier League and beyond are convinced they can offer that. So the sooner fans return, in part at least, in fewer numbers than before perhaps, the better it will be for all involved.
Ziyech off the mark
Frank Lampard hasn’t needed to rush Hakim Ziyech back to action, thanks to a glut of attacking midfielders in his squad.
The former Ajax man has been slowly integrated into the side, with sub appearances and infrequent starts, and has gradually started to look like the more threatening, creative player we all know he is.
Here he showed why he’s such a threat: from any attacking angle he can make space, evade a tackle and get shots away – he managed five in his 80 minutes on the pitch, four hitting the target and one ending in the back of the net.
Last season a big issue for the Blues was a lack of clinical edge, but Ziyech will be part of the solution which ensures that shouldn’t be a problem over the longer term in 2020/21.
There’s still lots of work to do to progress, but this win on the road takes Chelsea a good step toward the last 16.
It’s a very tight group, with Rennes impressive domestically and with real match-winners in their ranks, while Sevilla’s pedigree is well-known by now.
After all four teams drew on Matchday 1, it makes victories away from home all the more important.
Chelsea’s progress might yet come down to the double-header against Rennes, and they’ve put themselves in a good starting spot for those upcoming fixtures.
A night of perspiration rather than inspiration could lie ahead for Frank Lampard’s team and, while not losing should be priority No. 1, they have the attacking talent to take the points if they can find a clinical edge. Krasnodar 1-1 Chelsea
Juventus and Barcelona meet on Wednesday night in the Champions League in what might be something of a restructuring season for both.
The giants have won seven European Cups between them, but after appointing new managers in the summer and being some way off the pace in recent seasons among the game’s elite, they have some way to go before adding to their respective tallies.
The watching world may be denied a Cristiano Ronaldo-Lionel Messi match-up, with the Portuguese forward having tested positive for coronavirus during the international break and awaiting the results of another test ahead of this fixture.
Both teams won their opening match in the group, but have been inconsistent this season and neither won in their respective leagues this past weekend.
Here’s everything you need to know ahead of kick-off.
When is the game?
The match is set to kick-off at 8pm GMT on Wedneday, 28 October at the Allianz Stadium.
Where can I watch it?
The game will be shown live on BT Sport 3. Subscribers can stream the game via the BT Sport app or website.
What is the team news?
Three Juventus defenders will miss the match, with Giorgio Chiellini and Alex Sandro both extremely unlikely to play and Matthijs de Ligt still recovering from surgery.
Weston McKennie is available after testing positive for Covid-19 last week and having now recovered, but Cristiano Ronaldo will not be able to play for the same reason, as it stands. Arthur could start again in midfield against the team he left this summer.
Barcelona are without Philippe Coutinho, who has a hamstring strain, and Marc-Andre ter Stegen, who has yet to play this term. Gerard Pique is also suspended. Koeman must choose between Sergi Roberto and Serginio Dest at right-back, while Antoine Griezmann will hope for a recall. Miralem Pjanic left Juve for Barca in the swap deal with Arthur, but might not start here.
Juve have more options, better players and more experienced heads in attacking situations, which could prove the difference as Barca are missing key personnel at the back. A Cristiano-Messi shoot-out could go either way, but by the strength of the line-ups overall, Juve should edge it. Juventus 2-1 Barcelona
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Karlan Grant will be looking for his first West Brom goal tonight after his summer move from Huddersfield. As it stands, Hal Robson-Kanu and Callum Robinson lead the scoring charts for the Baggies, with three apiece.
Both Brighton and West Brom have struggled defensively this season, so there could well be goals tonight. The Baggies have shipped 13 goals – only bottom side Fulham and, bizarrely, Liverpool have let in more.
Brighton have conceded 11, too, but they are more accomplished at the other end of the pitch, scoring nine to West Brom’s measly return of five.