Motherwell v Aberdeen: Alex McLeish & Craig Brown preview Scottish Cup semi-final
|Scottish Cup semi-final: Motherwell v Aberdeen|
|Venue: Hampden Park, Glasgow Date: Saturday 14 April Kick-off: 12:15 BST|
|Coverage: Watch on BBC One Scotland & iPlayer; listen on BBC Radio Scotland 810MW/DAB/online; text commentary on the BBC Sport website & app|
Motherwell and Aberdeen have waited 27 and 28 years, respectively, to get their hands back on the Scottish Cup, so both clubs could be forgiven for thinking their time has come.
The Dons last claimed the trophy in 1990, defeating Celtic on penalties. The following year Motherwell edged Dundee United 4-3 at Hampden in one of the great Scottish Cup finals, having ended the Dons' defence of the trophy in the third round. That was the last time Motherwell won a major trophy.
Aberdeen's last piece of silverware came in 2014 when they won the League Cup, having beaten Motherwell in the quarter-finals.
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The sides will do battle in the first Scottish Cup semi-final at Hampden on Saturday, with Celtic and Rangers facing off on Sunday to meet the winner in the final.
Having been runners-up to Celtic in the League Cup already this season, can Motherwell make a second cup final in the same campaign for the first time since 1951? Or will Aberdeen win through to their third domestic final in two seasons?
Alex McLeish, the current Scotland manager who made his name as a towering centre-half at Aberdeen before going on to manage Motherwell, and Craig Brown, the former Scotland boss who had spells in charge of both sides, give their views on Saturday's semi-final.
'On paper everything favours Aberdeen'
Twenty-four points separate Aberdeen in third and seventh-placed Motherwell in the Premiership table. Despite that gulf in the league, Motherwell have won two of the four meetings between the teams this season, including a 3-0 League Cup quarter-final win and a 2-0 win at Pittodrie in December.
Aberdeen have won the two meetings at Fir Park, including a dominant display in a 2-0 victory just 10 days ago.
Craig Brown: "On paper if you look at both sides Aberdeen have the stronger side, and if you look at the league table everything favours Aberdeen, but with two wins each this season it could be a close game.
"It's unusual for Aberdeen to lose a game and last week at Hearts [the 2-0 defeat] was an uncharacteristic performance from Aberdeen. Not at their best and I wouldn't imagine them to do that two games in a row."
The physical battle
Motherwell's success in their League Cup semi-final win over Rangers owed much to their dominance of the physical battle, allied with the brilliance of striker Louis Moult, who has since departed for Preston.
Alex McLeish: "Motherwell have been very strong in the past few weeks. They were very good against Rangers [in the 2-2 Premiership draw], came out with all guns blazing.
"I can see them having that kind of approach but I'm sure [Aberdeen boss] Derek McInnes will be ready for that."
Brown: "After Aberdeen lost in the League Cup to Motherwell, Derek wisely changed the team. I think that was young Scott McKenna's first game and he and Kari Arnason more than held their own physically.
"So I think it would be a mistake if Motherwell tried to make it a physical game because Aberdeen are well equipped physically as well. I don't think it would be wise for Motherwell to depend on physicality in the match."
Key men on the sidelines
Three of Aberdeen's key players - captain Graeme Shinnie, midfielder Kenny McLean and full-back Shay Logan - will miss the semi-final through suspension.
Motherwell will also be without their suspended captain Carl McHugh, while Craig Tanner and Peter Hartley are also out.
McLeish: "I really do feel it's a tough one for Aberdeen. Those three are a superb hub of the team. It's quite incredible that it's those three that are out because they are three of the very first choices. Motherwell have one or two injuries as well."
Brown: "Kenny McLean and Graeme Shinnie drive Aberdeen on and Shay Logan is one of the best attacking full-backs in the league. Even in spite of that, they've got good provisions to fill in for the missing players."
'Two outstanding managers'
Motherwell are looking to emulate Aberdeen's achievement of last season by reaching both domestic cup finals, which would add to the burgeoning reputation of manager Stephen Robinson.
McInnes is aiming to reach his fourth domestic cup final during his five years at the Aberdeen helm. His side are also well in the hunt for a fourth consecutive second-placed finish in the Premiership.
Brown: "We're talking here about two outstanding managers. I've got to say the job Stephen Robinson has done is exceptional.
"He's recruited well and his team are highly motivated and well organised. It would be a great achievement for Motherwell if they managed to get through.
"Derek McInnes has done marvellously well at Aberdeen. There is a consistency there. To be second in the league in the last three seasons, and to be in with a great chance of doing that once more, is a great credit to Aberdeen and to Derek."
McLeish: "When you think about it, for Aberdeen to have been second in the past few years is nothing short of sensational.
"Getting to the last two finals, they gave a great account of themselves in last year's Scottish Cup final. If they can reproduce that kind of form there is no reason they can't go the big step this year."