Saturday 25 January 2020

Lennon not thinking of Old Firm tie

Neil Lennon
Neil Lennon

Neil Lennon has told his Celtic players to forget about the upcoming Old Firm cup final and keep their focus on tonight's game against Hamilton.

The build-up to the match against Rangers at Hampden Park on Sunday has begun despite there being a round of Scottish Premiership fixtures to take place beforehand, with Accies visiting the league leaders.

Asked if he had any concerns about the keenly-awaited final overshadowing the league match, the Celtic boss, whose side lead Rangers at the top of the table on goal difference, said: "Well, as far as we're concerned it won't and we have made that clear to the players yesterday and today.

"The league is the priority and the season doesn't end on Sunday whether we win the cup or not. We've got a lot of games between now and the end of December.

"So, Hamilton is our priority, it's our most important game and we will go strong. And then our aim is to win the game as best we can."

Lennon was delighted with his side's 4-1 win over Ross County on Sunday which made it 10 wins in a row in all competitions and which followed the impressive 3-1 win over Rennes on Thursday night that clinched top spot in their Europa League group.

However, the former Celtic captain again reiterated that his attention was on Brian Rice's Accies. He said: "It is fantastic consistency, fantastic quality of football, fantastic hunger and desire from the players in terms of wanting to win the game and win them well.

"It was a really powerful performance again on Sunday off the back of a fantastic performance against Rennes.

"Tomorrow provides another stiff challenge. Hamilton miraculously find a way to maintain Premiership standards every year and they've got a cute manager there in Brian, he's quite smart, quite experienced.

"We're not thinking about picking the team for Wednesday with Sunday in mind.

"We are picking the team to win the game and take it from there."

Sticking with his emphasis on Hamilton, Lennon welcomed a clutch of players back to training but was reluctant to confirm which ones will be available for Sunday.

Odsonne Edouard, the 21-year-old French striker who has missed the last two matches due to a "niggle", was back with the squad yesterday, although he will not be considered for Hamilton.

Olivier Ntcham (knock), Mohamed Elyounoussi (foot), Boli Bolingoli (hamstring) and Jonny Hayes (shoulder) also trained at Lennoxtown along with striker Vakoun Bayo who has been out since October with a knee injury, although only the former will be available for the Accies match.

The Hoops boss said: "Ntcham has a good chance of starting. As regards Odsonne and Mohamed, no. So we will see how they are.

"Bolingoli won't be fit for tomorrow. Bayo is back in training but it's probably too soon and it's as you were with Jonny so we are confident he will be fit as well (for Sunday).

"We have another five days before the cup final but our main focus is on tomorrow and we will deal with what comes after that, after the Hamilton game.

"But it is good to see them back."

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