20/20 vision in the Scottish Cup

  • By: Gareth Friel
  • Last Updated: November 30 2013, 14:46 GMT

Gareth Friel provides his outright selections for the Scottish Cup and is happy to oppose Celtic with two 20/1 chances.

Inverness: Worth backing in the Scottish Cup
Inverness: Worth backing in the Scottish Cup

When Rangers entered administration in February 2012 there were fears that the end of Scottish football's historic two-horse race would lead to 'armageddon' (Stewart Regan).

Many pundits felt that the financial meltdown at Ibrox would lead to Celtic dominating the game, making it even more uncompetitive and drive fans away.

While Celtic did win the league by some distance last season and will continue to do so for the foreseeable future, their clear superiority has not been represented in the cup competitions.

They won the Scottish Cup in May, beating Hibs 3-0 at Hampden, but prior to that had failed to win any of the previous three competitions since Rangers' demise.

However, they are odds-on favourites across the board to lift this season's Scottish Cup, the big guns entering the competition this weekend.

Aberdeen, Motherwell, Rangers and Dundee United follow in the betting at between 9/1 and 14/1.

Further down the betting Inverness and St Johnstone at 20s catch the eye.

Caley Thistle sit second in the Premiership table by three points, with a game in hand over all their close rivals below them. The reason for them being longer odds than Dundee United, Rangers and in some respects Hibernian doesn't add up to me.

They have cup pedigree too, reaching the semi-finals of the League Cup last season and the last four again this season, with a semi-final to look forward to in February.

Not many teams will go to the Caledonian Stadium and come away with a victory. The club may be managerless at the moment, which of course is a concern when backing them, but they have a solid base that has earned them seven wins in eight home games.

Much depends on who they appoint as manager and any movement in the January transfer window but 20/1 on a team that, based on the first third of the season, is the 'best of the rest' is surely too big.

St Johnstone look a bit big at that price too. Like Inverness, they are also in the semi-finals of the League Cup and performed creditably in the Europa League qualifiers earlier in the season, so have proved their knockout credentials.

They've also defeated both Inverness and Motherwell - two of the top three - in the league this season, showing that they can raise their game to beat the best sides.

Also like Caley Thistle, they have a home tie against lower league opposition on Saturday while there are four all-Premiership ties, meaning that at least a third of top-flight clubs will be eliminated, opening up the competition for the likes of St Johnstone.

As with Inverness, Saints are well worth backing at 20/1.

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