HAMPDEN Park is supposed to be a neutral venue for the BetFred Cup semi-finals but Callum McGregor has come to regard it as one of his happiest hunting grounds.

Aside from one major exception, the Scottish Cup semi-final defeat to Rangers in April 2016, where he missed a penalty as Celtic crashed out in the shoot-out, this 24-year-old midfielder tends to be on the right side of the score line on the occasions when he graces the national stadium.

Okay, so he also made it onto the pitch when Ross County beat Celtic 3-1 at exactly this stage just three months previous to that, but what transpired was hardly his fault considering he had helped Gary Mackay-Steven give Celtic an early lead only to be sacrificed after 11 minutes when Efe Ambrose’s slip conceded a penalty and saw Ronny Deila’s side reduced to ten men.

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The trauma of that memory has long since been exorcised, not least last season, when McGregor steered in the fine opener which set Celtic on course for a 2-0 win against their bitter rivals at this stage, then rounded off the first invincible treble in the club’s history here against Aberdeen in the Scottish Cup final. But his affinity with the national stadium stretches back far longer than that – all the way to his days as part of Celtic’s all-conquering youth team, for whom he played his part in a hat-trick of SFA youth cup wins from 2009 to 2011, including a hat-trick in a 7-0 win against Queen of the South in the 2010 showpiece.

“It never gets old, coming here,” said McGregor. “And when you play somewhere and have good memories, I think it always gives you that extra little bit of confidence. You think ‘I can score goals here’ or win things here. It gives you a nice feeling going into the game.”

What else will McGregor be feeling come Saturday lunchtime? Well perhaps a little bit jaded following the trip to Bavaria during the week, though undoubtedly less so than the 14 men who actually made it onto the Allianz Arena pitch. And perhaps inspired to ensure that Celtic’s unbeaten run stretches to an incredible 60 domestic matches, considering how close Hibs ran them as recently as the start of this month.

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We had just ten minutes of regulation time to play when McGregor’s second of the day cancelled out a John McGinn double. Considering the two men spent the next fortnight eye-balling each other on a Scotland bench, neither making it onto the pitch as the nation’s fates hung in the balance, it is ironic that they should find themselves facing each at the national stadium again tomorrow. “Obviously both of us would have loved to get on,” he said.

“It’s a great unbeaten record and we want to see how far we can go," McGregor added. "We don’t know when we’re beaten and we’ve scored late goals to which boosts confidence to boost the run. You look at the game we played against Hibs recently when they went 2-1 up with 13 minutes to go and pretty much everyone looked at each other in the stadium and thought this could be the one. But we got back in the game and scored and might even have had a penalty as well.

“It would have been nice if we could have played the Sunday, had that extra day [to recover]," he said. "It takes its toll, flights there and back, the mental preparation for the game. But you are a professional footballer, so you have to be able to play two or three games a week and be OK. And the adrenaline gets you through, especially in semi-finals and finals at Hampden. We’ll be ready."