herald

Friday 15 December 2017

Derby in lap of gods-Lennon

NEIL Lennon has attempted the impossible over the next few hours by trying to detach himself from the hysteria building towards tomorrow's Old Firm derby.

Lennon has already experienced the tension of a Glasgow derby from the manager's seat but Celtic's 2-1 win over Rangers in May was effectively a dead rubber with the title already decided in Rangers’ favour.

Never before in the history of the fixture have both teams faced each other with 100pc records but on Sunday something must give as Lennon sends his side out to do battle with Walter Smith's men.

“Everyone else is looking forward to the match but I have a lot of things to think about in terms of team selection and preparation,” the Celtic boss admitted. “I'm pretty much engrossed in all that at the moment. “I'm looking forward to seeing how the team plays against a very good Rangers team but Old Firm games for manager's aren't the most enjoyable experiences.

“As a player you don't have time to think about things, everything is instinctive “On the touchline you get a better picture of the game but you have to look after the whole team. “A manager has to look carefully at the preparation and the team selection and get the formation right.

“All of those things go through your head leading up to the game and you can't predict this fixture – it's in the lap of the gods half of the time.” Celtic's dramatic win over Dundee United has been marginalised by the controversy over the on/off penalty decision awarded after Gary Hooper was grounded by goalkeeper Dusan Pernis.

Referee supremo Hugh Dallas has embarked on a media frenzy attempting to explain what happened and went as far as claiming that Lennon left Tannadice in agreement with the decision of the referee. “I accepted the explanation (from the referee) but still the decision rankles with me,” said Lennon.

“I did an interview after the game then I went to see the referee. I accepted his explanation of why he changed his mind but I still don't agree with it.” Looking on the pitch Lennon added: “The Dundee United game was probably the best that we have played this season, you have to put into context the opposition that we were up against.

“We won the game with free flowing football. We dominated them, created chance after chance, the players believed in themselves and they got what they deserved.

Turning back to the Rangers match Lennon warned: “Rangers are playing some good football and have good pace in the team. They are a threat.

“They are probably playing morefootball than people are giving them credit for, they have good footballers in Davis, Miller and Bougherra and Naysmith is playing very well.“We have to be careful. When we are in control of the ball we have to concentrate at the back and don't get caught on the counter attack.

“Like all Old Firm games you can't predict them but we want to be at our best. We're playing with a lot of confidence and want to take that into Sunday.”

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