Celtic unbeaten chances played down by Neil Lennon

Celtic manager Neil Lennon has played down his side's chances of going through the season undefeated.  Picture: Ian RutherfordCeltic manager Neil Lennon has played down his side's chances of going through the season undefeated.  Picture: Ian Rutherford
Celtic manager Neil Lennon has played down his side's chances of going through the season undefeated. Picture: Ian Rutherford
Neil Lennon has played down talk of Celtic going the whole of the Scottish Premiership campaign unbeaten ahead of the trip to St Johnstone on Boxing Day.

The Parkhead side’s 2-0 win over Hearts at Parkhead on Saturday stretched their run to 16 games and at the pre-match press conference for the McDiarmid Park match, skipper Scott Brown said: “We want to go the whole season without getting beat. We want to get as many points on the board as possible as well.”

However, the Hoops boss applied the brakes to any notions of a runaway title season.

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“It is something that people talk about very prematurely,” said Lennon, whose team are already 10 points clear of Dundee United at the top of the table.

“I wouldn’t say (it was) impossible but it is a very difficult thing to do so I wouldn’t get too far ahead of ourselves on that.

“We are 16 games into a 38-game season so we are not even halfway there, so it is still a lot to ask for.

“What I am pleased about is that we are unbeaten (in the league) since the start of the season which, considering the amount of games we have had, is a very good effort so far.

“What I want to do in the festive period is to try to increase the gap at the top and give ourselves a bit of leeway going into the break we are taking in January and be ready to go again.”

Brown was speaking partly in the context of what will keep the Parkhead club going after Christmas given that they are out of Europe and odds-on to retain their title.

However, Lennon believes a rather chastening experience in the Champions League this season, where the Parkhead side finished bottom of their section with three points from six games which included a 6-1 defeat by Barcelona in the Nou Camp, should provide plenty of motivation.

“We are still a very long way from where we want to be and the Champions League showed that,” he said.

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“While we had a brilliant year the year before (getting to the last 16), it wasn’t so great this year in the Champions League.

“We have set the bar very high and we want to keep pushing the players to strive to be a consistent Champions League team and competing well in the Champions League and to do that, we have to play consistently well week in, week out.”

The Northern Irishman believes Celtic are set to undergo two of the stiffest tests of the season.

“We have two very tough games coming up, St Johnstone away and Inverness away,” he said.

“This will really test the players but they are good tests in my view.

“We obviously want to keep the unbeaten run going and try to get a decent performance in both games.

“But St Johnstone at home can beat anyone. They are a very good side and have been very consistent in the last couple of years.

“Tommy Wright has kept the continuity going that Steve Lomas had brought in and look at the resilience they have, they were down to 10 men at Hibs for a long period in their last game and didn’t get beat.

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“So they are a very tough nut to crack and we know that Inverness are having a great season.

“They will be disappointed in the (4-3 defeat) against Aberdeen but the comeback in the second half (from 4-0 down) was fantastic.”

Ledley and Samaras

Lennon revealed there have been no developments with regards midfielder Joe Ledley and forward Georgios Samaras, both of whom are out of contract at the end of the season and who are stalling on new deals.

The former Celtic skipper will take his time on deciding whether to offer a contract to Japan international Hiroki Yamada, who trained last week at Lennoxtown.

He said: “We haven’t made a decision on that. We had him in for a week last week and we will talk about it over the next few days.”