Celtic star times his Scottish Cup Final run too late as Brendan Rodgers’ XI picks itself – Parkhead analysis

Luis Palma got his movement bang on to win the game for Celtic on Premiership trophy day.

But when it comes to Brendan Rodgers' big decisions for the Scottish Cup Final, the Honduran's run has surely been timed too late. And the same goes for other lesser-sighted stars who were handed the opportunity to savour the final hurrah in the title term. Barring injury, many Celtic fans believe they know the team for the Hampden showdown with Rangers even before Rodgers selects it.

In their eyes, it picks itself. You'd have to imagine it's the same for the boss. The starting side that put Rangers' fleeting last league challenge to bed nine days ago and swept aside Kilmarnock to clinch the flag is long odds-on to be the choice. Of course, nothing is ever cast in stone in football. With training sessions and five days to go before the showpiece at the National Stadium, injuries and illness can always force a change of thinking.

When the team sheets landed prior to the weekend win over St Mirren, it was clear Rodgers was in the midst of a balancing act. Aspects included resting some, maintaining the flow within the performance of others and getting valuable game-time into more. Clearly, given the fact injuries had meant the trio had only played seven previous Premiership matches this season, the importance of keeping continuity and rhythm with the midfield was high in the thinking.

Callum McGregor is building his way back to full speed and, given he's the leader, he wasn't going to miss out. Rodgers also went again with Matt O'Riley and Reo Hatate. That plan worked. McGregor did his usual, O'Riley scored the first equaliser of the match and helped make the winner for Palma, while Hatate was also in the thick of it, setting up compatriot Kyogo Furuhashi to bag a second Celtic equaliser as they fought back from behind twice to win.

But defensively though, there was a big shake-up. Cameron Carter-Vickers is a must for Hampden and no chances were taken with him. His partner Liam Scales would also have had the full afternoon off had Stephen Welsh not been injured just after the hour mark. It ended a tricky day for the defender playing alongside Maik Nawrocki, caught out by Toyosi Olusanya, conceding a penalty and also given a generally tough time by the hitman.

Like Carter-Vickers and Scales, Joe Hart is a Hampden given and he goes there in tremendous fettle. The Englishman could do little about the two Mark O'Hara goals. But the giant banner unveiled at the start of the second half would've been a proud moment. Hart's ovation as he went off to be replaced by Scott Bain was emotional and loud. It'll take a big character to step into his position next season.

Alistair Johnston was also absent and, of the potential replacements, Anthony Ralston is, as ever, the best bet. The right back never lets Celtic down. Strong and solid, he still had energy in the 86th minute to overlap onto O'Riley's backheel and deliver the centre for Palma to net.

With Steve Clarke announcing his Euros squad on Wednesday, Ralston has to be a strong contender with Aaron Hickey and Nathan Patterson toiling through injury. He's a dependable back-up for his country, as he is for his Canadian colleague at Parkhead. James Forrest, 32, might also be in that 26-man Scots unit and was another to be rested on Saturday.

Two months ago, it seemed he would be the one getting the run-out to give Nicolas Kuhn a breather ahead of Hampden. But the roles have flipped. Forrest's form in helping Celtic over the title line included a terrific display against Rangers. The German is the support act right now. Same goes for Palma. Daizen Maeda is all pace and directness while Palma has a tendency to slow the game too much. He did the right things by getting into the far post to tuck home the Ralston delivery and his dead-ball delivery was terrific but, like Kuhn, the general play lacked zip.

In fairness, Maeda's ability to unsettle Rangers captain James Tavernier makes him a certain starter on Saturday regardless. Old Firm expert Kyogo, left out against Killie as Rodgers called it spot-on with Adam Idah, was back and looked sharp. The way he took his chance was sublime. Hatate went down the flank and produced the type of service Kyogo thrives on.

The type of service an in-form Forrest will supply from one side and Maeda, judging by John Lundstram's own goal nine days ago, will do from the other.

Palma got the moment of glory before the Premiership silverware was handed over. But it's a different trophy back on the line on Saturday. To get the second bagged, Rodgers will surely go back to boys who surged over the line to seal the first .