WITH Celtic missing key players due to coronavirus and injury and going three games without winning for the first time in over two years as a result, the other teams in the William Hill Scottish Cup would appear to have an excellent opportunity to end their reign as champions.

Aberdeen, who drew 3-3 with the Parkhead club at Pittodrie in an entertaining Premiership encounter at the weekend, will certainly fancy their chances of beating their Glasgow rivals in the semi-final at Hampden on Sunday.

And Hearts and Hibernian, who play on Saturday evening, will be quietly confident of lifting the trophy should they go through to face a side whose defence has been porous since play resumed after the international break.

Jon Daly, the former Rangers striker and Hearts coach who won the Scottish Cup during his time as a Dundee United player, certainly feels they all have an outside chance of getting their hands on the silverware.

Yet, he still fully expects Scott Brown and his team mates, who are bidding to become the first side ever to triumph in the competition four years running, to emerge from their dip in form and prevail once again come December.

“Every player in that Celtic squad is a serial winner who knows how to win trophies and get the job done,” said Daly. “They have good memories of being at Hampden. Regardless of Celtic's form, I still see them as the favourites to win the competition.

"Aberdeen will take heart from the game on Sunday and will try to use that to get through to the final. Even if Celtic hadn't wobbled, I think it's still open. One-off games always give you an opportunity. But it's going to be very difficult.

“Celtic are the team to beat. With the players at their disposal, I think it's going to be tough for the other three teams to win it, but certainly not impossible.”

Daly, though, reckons having three-time winner Craig Gordon in goals will be invaluable to Championship club Hearts in their semi-final against their Edinburgh rivals Hibs and, should they progress, the final.

“The fact that he’s come from a club where he’s been successful, won trophies and been in that winning environment is important,” he said. “That’s the environment that’s expected at Hearts. They’re expected to win and they’re expected to win in the Championship comfortably.

“He’s been a massive asset already. On Friday night (in the 1-0 win over Arbroath at Gayfield), you saw the saves he made in the first-half to keep the game at 0-0. When you have a good goalkeeper, they’re worth their weight in gold.

“He’ll definitely help them this year in games like Friday night when it’s not going particularly well or it’s not going the way they expect it to go. He’ll come up with saves that other keepers probably wouldn’t. He’s been a massive signing and he’ll be a big influence in the weekend for them.”

Daly, who departed Tynecastle last season after Craig Levein was sacked as manager, has been impressed with Robbie Neilson’s recruitment this summer and the form they have shown in their League Cup and Championship matches in the 2020/21 campaign.

But the Irishman believes the width that Josh Ginnelly and Jordan Roberts have given the capital club have been vital during their six game winning run and feels the loss of the duo, who are both major doubts due to injury, will be a severe blow to their chances.

“Wide areas are massive and were an area that probably needed to be addressed,” he said. “Robbie’s brought in some good pace and quality. They’ve started brightly. He’s done really well and it looks like it will be a good season for them with the way they’ve started.

“But it looks like the two wide players Hearts have brought in – Ginnelly and Roberts - could be out injured. So that will probably be an area Robbie will have to look at.

“He’s obviously got (Elliott) Frear on one side and he deployed (Craig) Wighton on the right at Arbroath. But it didn’t particularly work so he put him through the middle. It’s going to be interesting to see what Hearts do if those two are both out.”

Jon Daly was speaking at a William Hill media event. William Hill is the proud sponsor of the Scottish Cup.