Strachan prepares for Hampden test
Celtic manager Gordon Strachan has said that the state of the Hampden pitch may influence his team for their Scottish League Cup semi-final against Dundee United on Wednesday. He had already pencilled in the players he thought could move his side past the Arabs and into the final, but he is worried about the condition of the pitch after watching Queen's Park take on Peterhead in the Scottish Cup last Tuesday at Hampden.
The surface at the national stadium is not at its best, and with Rangers taking on Falkirk in the other semi-final the night before Celtic meet Dundee United, the surface is bound to deteriorate even further.
"I'm glad I went along to the Queen's Park game as the pitch will have a bearing on my team selection," Strachan said. "Some surfaces aren't great just now but we have to get on with it. Motherwell had the problem last season.
"Hibs have had complaints and Aberdeen's surface wasn't too good for us last week. I just hope it's an exciting game, but not many semi-finals turn out to be great matches.
"I remember one we had against Motherwell three years ago. Ok, we eventually won it 2-1, but it was one of the worst games I've ever had to watch."
A win for Strachan's side could set up a potential Old Firm final if Rangers can make it past Falkirk on Tuesday night. But Dundee United manager Craig Levein is desperate to make the final again after losing last season's showpiece on penalties after twice leading Rangers in the match. And the Arabs manager is confident his side can defeat Celtic in the cup after two Scottish Premier League draws with the Hoops.
"My players are not scared. And if Celtic beat us, they will need to play out of their skin," Levein said. "It makes me laugh when Celtic complain about competing financially with the teams in the Champions League. We need to do that against the Old Firm. But in this tie we have a great chance."
Levein's plans have been disrupted by the news that their semi-final rivals have been heavily linked with a move for midfielder Willo Flood. The Republic of Ireland B international has been on loan at Dundee United from Cardiff for the past season and a half. But the 23-year-old is out of contract in the summer and admitted a transfer to Celtic would be a dream move.
"I'm aware of all the speculation, but all I'm focusing on is Wednesday's semi-final," said Flood. "It's a huge game for the club and we're desperate to get back to Hampden, after losing in last season's final to Rangers.
"As long as I'm a Dundee United player I'll be giving 100 per cent for Craig Levein and the boys. It's business as usual as far as I'm concerned until I hear otherwise. It won't be a problem.
"I'm the kind of player who just takes one game at a time and anything else will take care of itself. If it happens it would be fair to say it would be a dream move. Celtic are a huge club and it's every player's ambition to play at the highest level."