Neil Lennon has backed himself to turn around Celtic’s form after they were knocked out of the Europa League with a 4-1 defeat away to Sparta Prague.
The defeat follows a 4-1 loss on home soil to the same opposition and means that though there are still games to play against Milan and Lille, Celtic can no longer progress.
The Scottish champions have now won only two of their last nine games and Lennon has seen his own position questioned, by some of the Celtic support among others. The team trail Rangers by 11 points in the Premiership, albeit with two games in hand and face a packed fixtures schedule in the next few weeks. However, he believes he can reverse the current form and keep the club on track for domestic success.
“Of course I do,” he said. “I know this group better than anybody.
“I remember last year when we lost to Rangers and had everyone writing us off and were getting slaughtered from everyone, our own supporters or everyone else in the game. They were saying the league was over and we put a great run together in the second half of the season.
“This feels a little bit different. It feels like we have a little more work to do but we’re confident we’ll turn it around again.
“It’s a lot of work catching up in the league but it’s not beyond us. Far from it.”
Lennon felt there were some positives to be taken from the Sparta game, though he admitted that defensive mistakes proved costly again. There’s little time between arriving back in Glasgow on Friday and the next challenge, a League Cup meeting with Ross County, and the manager says that building confidence will be key to recovery.
He said: “It’s about just getting them together on Saturday and analyse what went wrong but also look at what went right.
“It’s psychological for me, rather than physical. We just have to work on that side of the game with them and try to breed some confidence in them.
“Look, they’re going to get criticised from all quarters so the last thing they need is extra criticism from the coaching staff. We have to cajole them through it and get in a good performance at the weekend.
“We have to concentrate on domestic duties. It’s not what we want but it’s the reality.
“We have to be consistent now, not only game by game but also within the game for performance levels.
“It’s 30 minutes of good stuff and then five minutes of shooting ourselves in the foot at times and we need to eradicate that.”
Lennon said that he believed the players still had the quality to succeed and suggested that bigger events were taking their toll.
“They’re an excellent group,” he said. “I think they are just lacking a little bit of unity at the moment. I don’t know if it’s because we’re living through a pandemic and it’s not normal.
“There’s things that are maybe out of their control a little bit and I think they’re missing the atmosphere in the stadiums as well. So we have to try and remedy that, adapt to it.
“I don’t think it’s a major footballing issue. I think it’s more psychological, really.”