NEIL LENNON is determined to lead Celtic back to the Premiership pinnacle following the crucial encounter with Steven Gerrard’s Ibrox outfit at Parkhead tomorrow afternoon.
Scotland’s title kings have the opportunity to take pole position in the knowledge a win will also give them two points to spare with a game in hand.
However, the Hoops boss is adamant the outcome of this confrontation will have NO bearing on where the crown goes at the end of the season.
Lennon, speaking to Sky Sports News, said: “It’s way too early. We had this conversation after winning at Ibrox last year and after we lost at Celtic Park in December. It didn’t pan out the way people predicted.
“The electricity, atmosphere, rawness, noise, colour – all of that’s going to be missing.
“We’ll just have to adapt to it as best we can. We’ve played reasonably well over the past couple of months and are on a good run of wins.
“It’s very difficult for this generation of players and what they’re going through without supporters, to get the best out of themselves. We’ve adapted as well as anybody.
“Now we have to maintain that consistency. I want to get all my players back fit because we’ve got a real heavy block of games coming up.”
Lennon has endured a terrible international break with the news Odsonne Edouard, Nir Bitton and Hatem Abd Elhamed had tested positive for coronavirus.
Plus Ryan Christie was ordered to self-isolate for 14 days after being deemed to be in contact with Scotland international team-mate Stuart Armstrong who failed to get the all-clear following a swab before last Thursday’s penalty-kick shoot-out win over Israel in the Europa play-off semi-final at Hampden.
As well as the concerns over the wellbeing of his players, Lennon has the additional worry of piecing together a squad for a game that will be crucial to the champions’ hopes of making history with a tenth successive title.
He said: “It’s very difficult when you’ve got players travelling all around the world, going from one bio bubble to another. They become vulnerable.
“We have worked so hard to protect them from that, at a lot of expense to the club.
“It can’t go on this way because we’re losing too many players, not just us, but a lot of other clubs, as well, and even countries.
“Look at the Czech Republic, they had to completely change their squad, which totally dilutes the quality and integrity of the competition.”
Lennon acknowledged he would prefer players not to travel, but he would NEVER try to stop them representing their countries.
He added: “That’s something I would never want to do to a player. These are unprecedented times and we are in a very difficult situation. Even at home it looks like the virus seems to be ramping itself up again.
“Ideally, we don’t want them to travel, but we’re not going to point the finger and say: ‘You can’t go’. We want them to represent their country and do well, but not totally at our expense.”