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Champions League Qualifying Play-Offs Round

Touching distance

A place in the Scottish Cup Final is up for grabs this weekend when Hibs take on First Division Falkirk at Hampden on Saturday before Jackie McNamara's Dundee United go head-to-head with favourites Celtic 24 hours later. Both ties are live on Sky.

Last Updated: 08/04/13 at 13:42 Post Comment

Pat Fenlon: Disappointing season for Hibs

Pat Fenlon: Disappointing season for Hibs

Sitting alongside Pat Fenlon and his assistant Liam O'Brien, I saw Falkirk beat Livingston last midweek at Almondvale. In my view, this young Falkirk side can play as well as their SPL opponents but Hibs have a definite edge in terms of strength and physique. It'll be interesting to note how Falkirk cope with the physical presence of guys like James McPake and Ryan McGivern.

Former Hibs man Darren Dods offers strength, leadership and experience at the back but this is a glorious chance for young guys like Jay Fulton, Craig Sibbald, Thomas Grant and Lyle Taylor to shine. If they're given the time and space to play, Falkirk are more than a match for Hibs.

They have the added bonus of a new manager in place, former Norwich City academy coach Gary Holt. Paul Lambert recommended him highly and it's a wonderful opportunity to not only reach a cup final after just one game in charge; Holt will realise that Falkirk are a side geared up to invest in young Scottish talent and will give players a chance to make a name for themselves.

Silver-lining

This has been a disappointing season for Fenlon's men and only a place in the final of the Scottish Cup for the second successive year can give them a lift. Missing out on a top six place before the SPL split for the last five games of the season is a financial blow and will impact on the type of player Fenlon is able to attract for next season.

Top scorer Leigh Griffiths and defender Ryan McGivern are still on loan and fans are unsure whether their club will pay the money required to secure them on a permanent deal.

Dundee United go into their clash with Celtic on a high having secured a lucrative finish in the top six with a dramatic injury time winner over Aberdeen. Make no mistake, Dundee United have the players who can hurt Celtic in a one-off game.

Jon Daly leads the line with experience; Gary Mackay-Steven and Johnny Russell are getting back to full fitness and have the skill and ability to be potential match-winners.

One-off

For Celtic, this is a game that Neil Lennon will want to see his players being able to rise to the occasion. Over the last three years, Ross County, Hearts and St Mirren have all beaten Celtic at the semi-final stage of cup competitions while Kilmarnock also came out on top in last season's League Cup final.

There can be no doubt Celtic have better players than United but too many have been off form too often on this type of occasion.

St Mirren ended their hopes of a domestic treble with a recent win at Hampden and the supporters will be looking for their heroes to go one better this time to have the chance of ending the season on a high with a league and cup double.

Both ties will be played to a finish on the day, there are no replays so look out for at least one semi-final to go all the way to extra time and penalties!

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