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Monday 21 January 2019

Lennon: SPL more important than Europa adventure

NEIL Lennon is putting the SPL title ahead of the Europa League.

On Thursday Celtic host Udinese in the Europa League but the Celtic boss has his mind on Sunday's visit to Tynecastle to play Hearts.

The Edinburgh side are struggling badly this season, losing 2-0 at St Johnstone yesterday after being knocked out of the League Cup by Ayr United, but that won't prevent them from putting in a ferocious performance against Celtic.

Last season Lennon was attacked at Tynecastle with the fixture widely regarded as Celtic's toughest test apart from a trip to Ibrox.

Before Celtic travel to Edinburgh, Rangers have home matches with Kilmarnock and Hibs and could stretch their lead to 10 points, leaving Celtic with no room for error despite the season only being in its infancy.

Asked whether Thursday or Sunday was the most important fixture Lennon replied: "Sunday, both games are important but the priority is the championship.

"I'll be looking for a better performance in the game after the European match than we got last time (Celtic lost 4-2 to Rangers on the back of their defeat to Atletico Madrid)."

Before Saturday's win over Inverness Caley Thistle the Celtic boss confirmed that Kelvin Wilson will be out for 10 weeks with an achilles tear.

The former Nottingham Forest defender joins Emilio Izzaguire and Cha Du-Ri on the long term injury list with Scott Brown battling a recurring ankle injury.



Appetite

Gary Hooper was substituted seven minutes into the second half of the win over Inverness and looks like missing out on the match with Udinese, who are in second place in Serie A having lost just one goal, away to AC Milan, in four matches this season.

"We've had good reports on Udinese," Lennon added. "It's a game to whet the appetite for the players and supporters.

"It will be nice to have a real European night at home again.

"I think it will be a good open game despite the fact we are playing against a team from a country whose football is notoriously defensively orientated. I don't think Udinese are like that.

"If you look at them against Arsenal they were very impressive and very unfortunate not to go through in the two games."

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