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Lennon: Celtic players have to hold their heads high

The manager wants the team to bounce back from their defeat to Rangers.

Lennon: Celtic players have to hold their heads high SNS Group

Celtic manager Neil Lennon has said that his players have to “hold their heads high” and look to impress against AC Milan following their defeat to Rangers.

The champions suffered a huge setback on Saturday when they were beaten 2-0 by Rangers on their own patch and have endured criticism since but face their next challenge when Italian giants Milan arrive at Celtic Park on Thursday.

The match is the first of the Europa League group stage and Lennon wants his players to focus on the challenges ahead rather than be affected by the loss in the derby.

“It’s a big game to look forward to and we’ve tried to be positive with the players and they’ve responded in the right way,” he said. “We’ve had the luxury, if you want to call it that, of some days on the training ground together so we move on.

“We get our heads down and work hard but we also have to hold our heads high. There’s a long way to go. We’re not happy with the result but there’s plenty of time to improve and bounce back.

“It’s only natural [that heads drop] after a defeat in a derby. You pick them back up. They should be proud of what they have achieved and what they can achieve going forward. All’s not lost on one result and one performance.

“However we know we have to get our heads down now and do hard work, get the level of performance that we’re capable of and get a good reaction in the next block of games.

“We’re all disappointed but we won’t dwell on that disappointment. We’re not smoothing things over as if everything is okay. You have to accept the criticism and it comes, I get that and I’ve been here before. We’re just looking to react as positively as we can and get a run of games where we play well and win again.”

Lennon will welcome back Ryan Chrtie for the match against Milan after the player’s self-isolation finished but Odsonne Edouard remains on the sidelines after contracting the virus. The French striker is well but still going through tests as part of a measured return.

The manager looked ahead to the glamour game on Thursday and said that it was important that his team make the most of home advantage if they are to reach the knockout stages of the competition again.

“It’s a quality game that really whets the appetite and it’s a huge challenge for them,” he said. “I think it’s important that we endeavour to win at least the home games in our group to give us a springboard or platform for attempting to qualify.

“I think we are up against a very good side who are reinvigorated but it’s a team that we can cause problems.

“Obviously at home you’re looking for a good reaction first and foremost and a strong performance from the core of the players.”