Thursday 24 January 2019

Lennon: Forget the past

Celtic boss believes heroic performances at Ibrox will not have bearing on Sunday's game

Neil Lennon will tell his players to forget their recent Old Firm heroics when they face Rangers on Sunday.

Lennon's side have taken all of the plaudits from two visits to Ibrox this year with a Georgios Samaras double giving them victory on January 2 followed by a fighting draw with 10 men in the Scottish Cup tie a fortnight ago.

Celtic are strong favourites with the bookies to go eight points ahead of their city rivals but, despite a 16-match unbeaten run, the Hoops boss knows that his side have it all to do when the whistle blows on Sunday.


"Every Old Firm game is different," Lennon warned. "Regardless of what happened in the cup game a fortnight ago this one will be totally different.

"We'll take the positives from the game but we won't be kidded on by anything. It could be different personnel that Rangers play and we can change it as well.

"Rangers are a good team, they are the champions, they are very difficult to beat and have a good mentality about them.

"Nikica Jelavic is someone that we have to keep an eye on, he's a good player and we know about him from playing Rapid Vienna last season.

"He's came through his injury, he got a hat-trick last weekend and players like Naismith and Davis can hurt any opposition.

"Every time we play against Rangers we learn more about them, we know their strengths and try to exploit their weaknesses.

"I don't think this result will define the outcome of the championship but we're getting down to the remnants of the season with 13 games left.

"Psychologically it's a big game for whoever wins it, we're playing very well, we're confident but we're not taking anything for granted.


"We know Rangers are a formidable team but it's a game that the players are looking forward to."

Confidence amongst the Celtic support is sky high with the new year win at Ibrox effectively transforming the season. The nervous team of rookies that stumbled through three consecutive home draws then narrow wins over St Johnstone and Motherwell has been transformed into a confident unit where everyone is fighting for their place.

Lennon has brought the average ago of the team down to 24 with only defender Daniel Majstorovic the wrong side of 30.

As he edges towards the anniversary of taking over from Tony Mowbray, the Celtic boss is happy with the way that his side his evolving.

"The football has been good, we've stepped it up over the last six or seven weeks to another level," Lennon added.

"We're not taking anything for granted, you're not going to get the perfect game or perfect run of performances.

"There's going to be difficult games between now and the end of the season but so far we are playing with a bit of freedom, the players are expressing themselves the way that we want to.

"I've not noticed any signs of complacency amongst them, we work them pretty hard and they're keeping their feet on the ground.


"There's a hunger about them -- we want to keep them hungry with competition for places. We have that and that keeps them all on their toes.

"Anyone that feels like slacking off knows that there's someone to come in and take their place."

James Forrest returned to training today after a three-week absence but Lennon's biggest decision will be whether he starts with Anthony Stokes in attack alongside Gary Hooper -- or opts for an extra man in midfield.

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