Lennon frustrated at Covid-related absences ahead of derby

The Scottish champions could be without four players for the Old Firm derby on Saturday.

Lennon frustrated at Covid-related absences ahead of derby SNS

Celtic boss Neil Lennon insists the football authorities must reconsider player safety issues around Covid-19 during international breaks.

The Scottish champions could be without four players for the Old Firm derby against Rangers at Celtic Park on Saturday.

Israel duo Nir Bitton and Hatem Elhamed and Scotland midfielder Ryan Christie will all miss out with coronavirus issues.

Odsonne Edouard has been in quarantine since testing positive while on duty with France Under-21s and although he will make it back to Glasgow in time for the lunchtime kick-off, he still must be considered a doubt after his period of self-isolation.

Lennon told Sky Sports Scotland: “It can’t go on the way it is going because we are losing too many players. Not just us, but a lot of other clubs as well.

“Even countries. Look at the Czech Republic for example, in the previous round they had to completely change the squad.

“It totally dilutes the quality and integrity of the competition.

“It is very difficult for me to say you are not going to play for your country, that is something that I would never want to do to a player.

“But these are unprecedented times and we are in a very difficult situation.

“Even at home now, it looks like the virus is ramping up. So ideally we don’t want them to travel, but we are not going to point the finger at them and say you can’t go.”

Ahead of the first Old Firm derby of the year, which will be played behind closed doors due to coronavirus restrictions, Rangers lead the champions by a point having played a game more.

However, Lennon – whose side have won their last eight games – insists it is too early for any conclusions to be drawn from the result.

He said: “It is way too early. We had this conversation after we won at Ibrox last year and after we lost at Celtic Park in December.

“It didn’t pan out the way that people assumed it was going to or predicted.

“We are on a good run and we want to maintain that consistency.

“I want to get all my players back fit because have a real heavy block of games coming up, great games, very exciting ones for players to really thrive on and it is really unfortunate that there is going to be no supporters there to see it.

“But for the players, individual performances, the club and team development they are brilliant games to look forward to.”