CELTIC manager Neil Lennon has acknowledged the recent improvement in Dundee United ahead of today’s William Hill Scottish Cup quarter-final clash at Tannadice.
The Parkhead side are 21 points clear of administration-hit Rangers at the top of the league with a Scottish Communities League Cup final at Hampden against Kilmarnock to look forward to next Sunday.
However, in a keenly-awaited cup tie, they will come up against a fourth-placed United side who have won their last three matches and kept a clean sheet in their last four, all of which has impressed the Irishman. “I think they could end up being third in the table,” Lennon told CelticTV.
“The draw couldn’t have been tougher. United really are dangerous opponents. Peter Houston’s teams always come on strong in the second half of the season and they have done that again. They are on a fantastic run, four or five clean sheets, scoring goals and winning games so it sets it up for a great game of football.”
Lennon knows victory will see the Parkhead men take a big step towards a possible treble this season, and is determined that Celtic don’t end the season with a whimper.
“If we lose [today’s match] we’ve got the League Cup final after that and it looks like the league could be wrapped up pretty soon, so there is going to be a lack of competitive games for the players after the Rangers game [the following week].
“So really there is an extra motivation there to keep our season going. There are trophies at the end of it, there is history to be made and as player you can’t ask for any more than to be in that position.”
The former Celtic skipper knows he and his much-changed squad have come a long way since he replaced Tony Mowbray, first as interim boss, two years ago. He said: “When I took over we had McGeady, Boruc, Robbie Keane, Fortune, Diomansy Kamara, great players and in a really strong squad then. But this time, there is a really strong spirit and togetherness.
“They are younger, hungrier and give everything for the club. They don’t know when they are beaten and I love that about them. We are always looking to improve and to get that extra edge. Obviously that has evolved over two years.”
Lennon has been boosted by the return of Scott Brown following his groin injury which saw him miss the win over Motherwell and draw with Aberdeen.
The Celtic captain is expecting a tough afternoon today. “Dundee United are flying just now to be fair,” Brown told Sky Sports News. “They are doing really well. They have a good back four, they are really solid. They’ve got young legs in the middle of the park and a few good strikers as well so it’s definitely something we are going to have to deal with if we are going to get through to the next round.”
Meanwhile, the Parkhead club revealed that Daniel Majstorovic has had surgery after rupturing the cruciate ligament in his left knee while on international duty.
The Swedish defender saw a specialist in London last Thursday and went under the knife the same day, undergoing an anterior cruciate ligament and medial collateral ligament reconstruction.