Hibernian vs CelticScottish Premiership, KO: 12:30 Sep 28, 2019, Easter Road
THE vultures that were circling above Paul Heckingbottom might have to wait a little longer for their meal after the Hibs boss eased some of the pressure by reaching the semi-finals of the League Cup.
Losing at home to Hearts in the Edinburgh derby last weekend was the final straw for many fans as it left the Hibees sitting second bottom of the table.
That clash was billed as El Sackico, with Hearts boss Craig Levein under intense pressure after a run of results that was even more disastrous.
Hibs fans delighted in singing “You're getting sacked in the morning” to Levein after Stevie Mallan had blasted them into the lead with a stunning 30-yard strike.
But by full-time it was the Jambos support signing the same ditty at Heckingbottom, with some of those in green and white also joining in after watching their side crash to a 2-1 loss.
Heckingbottom lived to fight another day though and took his suffering side to Kilmarnock's plastic pitch for a daunting League Cup quarter-final.
That clash was never going to be one for the purists and it was no surprise when it went to penalties after 120 minutes of attrition.
Defeat would have piled more misery on Heckingbottom and sparked more calls for his head but the Hibees held their nerve in the shoot-out to line up a semi-final with Celtic.
They will get a dress rehearsal this weekend when the Hoops come calling on league business but it will be tough for Hibs against a side who haven't put a foot wrong on domestic duty this term.
While Hibs were grinding it out at Rugby Park, Celtic were marching into the semi-finals with a 5-0 victory over Championship strugglers Partick Thistle.
That was Celtic's eighth consecutive victory in domestic competition this season and the only blot on their copybook so far has been one defeat from Cluj in the Champions League qualifiers.
The bookies think Neil Lennon's men will make it nine in a row at Easter Road with the Hoops a best 21/50 with Marathonbet for another victory.
Celtic's record at Easter Road hasn't been that impressive in recent seasons, dropping five points there in each of the last two campaigns.
But most of those wins and draws for Hibs were masterminded by Lennon, who now finds himself back in the hotseat at Parkhead.
And when the former Easter Road boss returned to his old stomping ground for a game that mattered last term he led the Hoops to a 2-0 win in the Scottish Cup.
I could see a repeat of that score here and a 2-0 Hoops win pays 15/2 with Sportingbet. However, Celtic haven't been too secure at the back this season and they had to come from behind to beat Kilmarnock 3-1 last weekend. So I'd be more inclined to back a two-goal winning margin for Lennon's side, which is 10/3 with Bet365.
The Hoops boss rang the changes against Thistle with fringe men Vakoun Bayo, Tom Rogic, Olivier Ntcham and Scott Sinclair all among the goals but his big hitters will return at Easter Road.
It was James Forrest who broke the deadlock in that cup tie against Hibs last season with a brilliant solo goal. The winger did everything but score last weekend, hitting the woodwork twice and being denied by a string of fine saves from Kilmarnock's keeper. He will be desperate to get back on the scoresheet here so try backing Forrest for anytime scorer at 2/1 with Betway.
Heckingbottom's problems seem to have stemmed from poor recruitment, with the likes of Christian Doidge and Melker Hallberg looking hopelessly out of their depth.
And a suspension for Ryan Porteous leaves the Hibees a bit light at the back as he joins the injured Darren McGregor on the sidelines.
Florian Kamberi remains their biggest threat and the Swiss striker netted twice against Celtic last season. That makes him a decent option for anytime scorer at 7/2 with Paddy Power.
There have been seven penalties in games involving the Hoops so far this season so I like the look of the 11/5 Unibet offer another being awarded here.
This Scottish Premiership match between Hibernian and Celtic will be played on Sep 28, 2019 and kick off at 12:30