Goals on menu in semis
Our Gareth Friel looks ahead to this weekend's Scottish League Cup semi-finals and brings you a couple of tips.
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Not so long ago it would have been unthinkable for Inverness to head into a cup semi-final against Hearts as favourites - but that is exactly the scenario ahead of the League Cup last four meeting at Easter Road on Saturday.
Caley Thistle spent much of last season trying to avoid being dragged into a relegation scrap while Hearts finished in the top six in the SPL and enjoyed one of their greatest days, destroying city rivals Hibs 5-1 in the Scottish Cup final.
But in just a few months it's all change. The Highlanders are riding high and are currently Celtic's closest challengers in the league while Hearts are languishing in ninth having lost a whole host of key players since the summer.
- 2pts over 2.5 goals in Inverness v Hearts at 21/20 (bet365, William Hill) - Caley have second best scoring record and fourth worst defence in SPL. Previous meeting ended 2-2.
- 1pt first goal in Celtic v St Mirren between 11 and 20 minutes at 7/2 (bet365, Paddy Power) - Celtic look really sharp and scored early in last two. Out to exorcise Hampden demons and Saints poor at the back.
Inverness are a general 6/4 while Hearts are available at 7/4 in what is a huge match for under-pressure Jambos boss John McGlynn.
Terry Butcher's high-fliers have only failed to score in one match this season and I fancy goals here. Only Dundee have scored less than Hearts but McGlynn and co will be confident of creating chances against a side that has conceded 35 goals in 22 games despite sitting second.
If this was an SPL game I'd go for over 3.5 goals at 11/4 but the value may lie in over 2.5 at odds against. This is likely to be a more cagey affair than it normally would be although if you're feeling bold, in each of the last two seasons, one of the semis has produced four or more goals.
But I'm happy to go with over 2.5 at 21/20.
In the other semi, Celtic face St Mirren at Hampden.
After a shaky start to the season and a host of dropped points, Celtic are flying now. They've won eight of their last nine SPL matches and scored four in successive games against Hearts and Dundee United in the past week.
Neil Lennon's side look refreshed following the winter break but the same cannot be said of St Mirren. They were abysmal in a 4-1 thrashing by Ross County on Saturday.
Celtic started their last two games brightly and were rewarded with early goals (although Dundee Utd had chances before going behind on Tuesday).
St Mirren famously beat Celtic 4-0 in 2010, a result that led to Tony Mowbray being sacked as manager, but since then they have failed to score against the SPL champions.
They've shipped 22 goals in the seven meetings since and, going by last week's defensive debacle against Ross County, there's every chance of another beating.
Celtic will be out to exorcise the demons of last season when they were beaten at Hampden in the Scottish Cup semis by Hearts and in the final of this competition by Kilmarnock so it's hard to see anything other than a fairly comfortable win for the Hoops.
I think they will be out to get at St Mirren early and backing the first goal between 11 and 20 minutes seems reasonable value at 7/2.