Lennon not relishing atmosphere of fan-free Old Firm clash

Celtic boss says his side in much better shape than in the weeks following their October defeat to Rangers.

Lennon not relishing atmosphere of fan-free Old Firm clash SNS GroupSNS Group

Celtic boss Neil Lennon has reconciled himself with the prospect of another “excruciating” Old Firm match played behind closed doors.

The Light Blues’ 2-0 win at Parkhead on October 17 was stripped of its traditional colour and frenzied noise as the fixture took place without supporters due to coronavirus restrictions.

The January 2 match at Ibrox will also be played in relative silence, which is not to the liking of the former Celtic captain.

“It is excruciating,” he said. “Let’s get it right.

“It is what it is, you have to get on with it but it’s not the same.”

Celtic go into the game in much better shape than they were following the Gers defeat, which sparked a run of just two wins in 12 and calls for the manager to go.

Lennon has turned it around with six successive victories, albeit the William Hill Scottish Cup final win over Hearts at Hampden Park earlier in the month required a penalty shoot-out.

The Hoops’ convincing 3-0 win over Dundee United at Parkhead on Wednesday afternoon – David Turnbull, Ismaila Soro and Odsonne Edouard were on the scoresheet – kept them 16 points behind Premiership leaders Rangers with three games in hand.

Lennon noted the importance of the second Old Firm match of the campaign and pointed out that his team has changed in the intervening period.

Edouard and Ryan Christie, who missed the Light Blues game due to Covid-19 issues are back in the side, Leigh Griffiths is almost back to full fitness and midfielders Turnbull and Soro have emerged as regulars.

The Northern Irishman said: “You don’t want to lose it, you want to get a positive result, either three points or a point.

“We are not even contemplating losing the game, we are going there with a positive frame of mind and we have to play, and we have to play a lot better than we did here in October.

“We have Christie, Edouard, Griffiths, Turnbull, Soro, they are all available to play so hopefully that will give us a real spark going into this game.

“We are playing well, everybody is fit, available and there is good competition for places.

“We are creating a lot of chances which we hadn’t been doing in that (poor) spell and we have been looking a lot more assured at the back, so the players have found their rhythm.

“I wouldn’t say I am relaxed about it, you never are going into a game like this but we are looking forward to it.”

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