Celtic warmed up for this weekend’s Scottish League Cup final with a resounding 4-0 win over Aberdeen on Saturday.

A 15th straight home league win in a row, the Hoops’ latest Scottish Premiership victory maintains their nine-point lead at the top of the table.

Focus now turns to Hampden on Sunday afternoon where city rivals Rangers stand between Celtic and the first piece of silverware of the season.

Much of the build-up to these derby matches is dominated by speculation about who will make the starting XIs on the day. That speculation will intensify even more given a major domestic honour is on the line.

However, it won’t just be those who do start the first derby final since 2019 that will be important, those in reserve may have just as big a part to play.


READ MORE: This Celtic side control their own destiny and they'll show it at Hampden - Tony Haggerty


For Celtic, although they have not often been required to change the game, their use of the bench throughout the season has already maintained and even increased the level of performance across 90 minutes.

The last few games have been a case in point. In the 5-1 Scottish Cup win over St Mirren, three of the four replacements got on the scoresheet while at the weekend, substitutes Liel Abada and Sead Haksabanovic combined to add a fourth goal against Aberdeen.

Given the nature of cup finals, and the fact the last time they faced Rangers at Hampden the two sides could not be separated in normal time, Ange Postecoglou’s bench could well end up playing a pivotal role in Celtic’s efforts to bring the League Cup trophy back to Celtic Park for a second consecutive season.

Ahead of Sunday’s showdown, let’s take a closer look at some of those likely to be in reserve who could still have a decisive role to play at the national stadium...

Oh Hyeon-gyu

January signing Oh has been gradually eased into life at Celtic following his ÂŁ2.5million move from K League 1 side Suwon Samsung Bluewings.

The South Korean striker opened his account off the bench against St Mirren in the Scottish Cup before being handed his first start in the 4-0 win over Aberdeen.

His inclusion from the start was likely to protect top scorer Kyogo Furuhashi following his recent injury scare but the talismanic Japanese forward is almost guaranteed to lead the line from the start on Sunday as he looks to repeat his heroics from last season’s final.

Oh’s valuable game time earned against Aberdeen will stand him in good stead should he be called upon though.

Providing a completely different threat to Kyogo too, Oh’s physical presence could offer the option of changing the dynamic of the front line, should Postecoglou’s side find themselves struggling to break down their rivals.  

Should Celtic find themselves in a winning position as the clock ticks down, that physicality could also provide a vital outlet to get his side up the pitch and alleviate pressure.

This match may come early in Oh’s Celtic career but he has shown enough already to suggest he can play his part, even if it is from the bench.

Celtic Way:

Sead Haksabanovic

The Montenegrin attacker hasn’t started for Celtic since the 2-1 league win over Ross County in November with his limited minutes in recent months down to a mixture of injury issues and the form of the likes of Jota and Daizen Maeda.

However, the former Rubin Kazan man did provide his first goal contribution since that last start when he set up Abada on Saturday.

He came on in his preferred left wing position but dropped back into a midfield role towards the end of the match, a position Postecoglou has utilised him in before, and generally looked sharp.

That flexibility certainly offers another good option to mix things up on Sunday if needed while his ability to operate in tight spaces could also be particularly useful in picking a way through the Rangers’ defence.

Depending on the game state, Haksabanovic would be more than capable of making his mark on the final if introduced.

Liel Abada

Similar to Haksabanovic, Abada has not enjoyed as much game-time in recent months as he did at the start of the season. Again, this is mostly down to the form of Daizen Maeda and Jota, both of whom seem likely to take the starting spots on either side of Kyogo on Sunday.

Abada provides another excellent option off the bench though. As he showed once again on Sunday, the Israeli wide player comes alive in the box. Should Celtic need to chase the game at any point, he would certainly provide additional firepower.

He has plenty of previous against the opposition too. He scored in last season’s defining derby win in February and also bagged a double in the 4-0 league win earlier this campaign. On both occasions, the young forward made well-timed runs into the box that the Rangers' backline, and in particular Borna Barasic, failed to deal with.

With the Croatian likely to take up his place at left-back for Michael Beale’s side at the weekend, Abada would more than fancy his chances of causing damage once again if he enters the fray.

Boasting nine league goals, as well as a double earlier in this competition, Abada’s knack for finding the net provides yet another excellent option for Postecoglou to turn to.

Aaron Mooy

Mooy has firmly established himself since signing from Chinese Super League side Shanghai Port last summer, providing six goals and six assists across 1,691 minutes of action for Celtic this season.

The Australian may therefore have the biggest claim to start the game of the four players singled out here. However, he sat out the win over Aberdeen with a knock picked up in training.

If he does shake off his injury to be involved, he could still find himself primed for a role from the bench with Matt O’Riley given the nod over him in the Celtic midfield that lined up for the New Year derby at Ibrox.

Even if that is the case, Mooy still has the potential to be a key contributor on cup final day having come off the bench in that most recent meeting with Rangers to play a role in the late equaliser.

If called upon again, his experience and security on the ball could be particularly important in helping manage the game.

At his most effective given time and space to operate in, his quality on the ball could also be effective at Hampden, should the game open up in the latter stages.