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Biton out to end cup curse
Celtic midfielder Nir Biton is hoping he can finally break his knock-out curse by lifting the Scottish League Cup.
The Israeli international has never reached the final of a senior tournament but will finally get his chance when the Hoops take on Dundee United at Hampden in the season’s first showpiece fixture.
Now the former FC Ashdod midfielder is hoping he can add a League Cup winners’ medal to the Scottish Premiership gong he picked up last season.
Biton said: “I have never played in a cup final, just two semi-finals in Israel.
“When you get to the semi-finals and you only have two games to win to win a trophy, it’s annoying to lose in a semi-final. But as a professional player you need to keep looking forward. Now I have a big chance to win a cup with Celtic and this is a big thing for me.
“Everything in life happens for a good reason and when you lose one title, you look to win the second title.
“Especially in a cup, anything is possible in 90 minutes. We know everybody expects us to win but Dundee United showed last Sunday, it will be difficult for us like every game in the Scottish league. We need to have a good mentality.
“A lot of Celtic games are live in Israel, especially cup finals, so everyone will be looking forward to it.
“When you play for a team like Celtic it’s a huge club with a lot of fans all over the world, so a lot of people will be looking forward to it in Israel.”
Defender Virgil van Dijk’s successful red card appeal leaves him free to play at Hampden.
United midfielder John Rankin admits the up-tight Taysiders have let one trophy slip through their grasp – but insists it will not happen again.
The Tannadice outfit lost out to St Johnstone in last year’s William Hill Scottish Cup final.
Now Rankin has urged his Tangerines team-mates to relax use the big-match atmosphere to their advantage.
He said: “We are all very enthusiastic and desperate to go for Sunday.
“To be honest I think we just need to enjoy the occasion this year.
“There were too many of us uptight last year and we never actually enjoyed it. I think this year, if we go and actually enjoy ourselves, it will hopefully end in a very good day.”
Sunday’s clash is part two of an epic duel between the sides which sees them meet four times in 13 days.
Last week’s Scottish Cup quarter-final ended in a 1-1 draw but also featured a number of flash points.
Van Dijk was sent off along with United’s Paul Paton – even though it was Arabs colleague Calum Butcher who clashed with the Dutchman.
Paton was eventually cleared after the Scottish FA admitted referee Craig Thomson has sent off the wrong man.
The governing body’s rules prevented it from punishing Butcher but they avoided another row by clearing van Dijk following their off-the-ball tussle.
United striker Nadir Ciftci – who is suspended for the final anyway – was spared further punishment when allegations that he had kicked Celtic midfielder Scott Brown in the head were found not proven.
But the drama has threatened to turn the Hampden decider into another powder-keg fixture.
Rankin, though, insists calmer heads will prevail.
“What happens in the last game is done,” said the 31-year-old. “We are not going to get involved in what happened the week before.
“You can only affect the next game that’s put in front of you and for us that next game is Celtic. And then Celtic again and Celtic again. It’s exciting.
“People might say it’s boring for the fans when you have four games in a row against the same team but it’s challenging for the players because each game is different and you have to rise to each occasion.”