If ever you needed a reminder of how disruptive the pandemic has been for football, this weekend would be it. That’s because we are essentially taking a step back in time with last season’s Scottish Cup and Women’s FA Cup returning to be completed. Here Alasdair Hooper gives you his pick of the weekend action…
Hearts v Hibernian (Saturday, 5pm)
We kick off our list with Saturday evening’s Edinburgh derby as Hearts and Hibs go head-to-head in the rescheduled Scottish Cup semi-final. Much has changed since the day this game was meant to be played with the Jambos relegated to the Championship when the league season was curtailed and Robbie Neilson now back as their manager.
Hibs are also a much more fearsome proposition with former Sunderland manager Jack Ross turning them into a far tougher outfit since his arrival at Easter Road. While six months has passed since the game was supposed to be played, one thing that won’t change is the rivalry between the two sides – so expect this to be a fiery affair even without the fans.
Borussia Monchengladbach v RB Leipzig (Saturday, 5.30pm)
While RB Leipzig may have had a Wednesday night to forget against Manchester United, domestically they have been in impressive form. They currently top the Bundesliga by a point over Bayern Munich, having won four and drawing one of their five games.
As we’ve seen in this year’s Champions League, Borussia Monchengladbach are also a real force to be reckoned with. Their league form currently puts them in sixth place at this early stage and they are perfectly capable of matching up against RB Leipzig. This could well be an exciting game for a Saturday evening.
Celtic v Aberdeen (Sunday, 2.30pm)
If last weekend’s game between these two teams is anything to go by then this should be quite the watch. Celtic and Aberdeen played out one of the more entertaining Scottish Premiership clashes so far this season as the topsy-turvy game finished 3-3, so part of the intrigue here lies in what the managers will do differently to get ahead this time in the Scottish Cup semi-final.
Much of that pressure falls on Celtic manager Neil Lennon who finds himself without a win in three games now. Failure to get into the Scottish Cup final would only intensify the scrutiny on him. There’s also the bizarre fact that Aberdeen’s Jonny Hayes will likely line up against the Hoops here, when he’d already played for Celtic in previous rounds of the cup. That’s the coronavirus pandemic for you.
Everton Women v Manchester City Women (Sunday, 2.30pm)
Speaking of cups that should have finished last year, this Sunday we finally see the grand finale of the Women’s FA Cup at Wembley. It also has the potential for being a really close game with Everton proving to be a far more potent force this year than many would have predicted.
City will be favourites here but you shouldn’t consider this a foregone conclusion as you could argue Gareth Taylor’s side are still yet to find their absolute best form. The last meeting between these two sides was in the Conti Cup and Rose Lavelle opened her account as City won 3-1 following a second-half fightback. What will we see this time around?
Manchester United v Arsenal (Sunday, 4.30pm)
The Premier League’s headline fixture this weekend sees the two giants that are Manchester United and Arsenal going head-to-head at Old Trafford. Traditionally this has been an entertaining fixture and it should be no different this time around.
Of course, last week I also tipped United v Chelsea to be full of goals and that proved to be an error of judgement, which I apologise for. That said, even if the goals don’t materialise you still have the storylines here. Can United follow up their midweek 5-0 win in Europe for example? Can Arsenal get back to winning ways after their loss at Leicester?
Ultimately, both Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and Mikel Arteta have plenty still to solve at their respective clubs – and questions will be asked if one of them ends up on the losing side here. It’ll probably be 0-0 won’t it?
You can follow Alasdair on Twitter @adjhooper1992