Neil Lennon would appear to have moved on from depth of squad to deployment of it. The Celtic manager recognises that the relentless churn of games for such as Callum McGregor, James Forrest and Scott Brown in recent seasons cannot be allowed to continue throughout a campaign that is likely to be a tighter squeeze because of the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Lennon acknowledges it is “common sense” to more carefully manage the 35-year-old Brown’s load, even if the Celtic captain appears one of those players who gets into his groove through consistent outings.
“Brownie knows he will not be able to play all the games as well but he is very, very fit as he always has been,” said Lennon. “He is injury free and his form is good because in these last few games he has really been coming into his own. So we will have a conversation with him as we go along about dipping in and out. If there are games where he could do with putting his feet up or getting a bit of breathing space. Obviously try to have him ready for really intense games where his experience and quality are valuable.
“I think there are a lot of players like him [who play themselves into form]. [Christopher] Jullien you could put in that bracket. I was a bit like that myself because it took me maybe until the beginning of September to start finding the best form. Scott is not on his own with that.”
Brown, pictured, will be at the heart of the Celtic side that must avoid a second continental exit within a month when they travel to take on Riga in the clubs’ Europa League third round qualifier on Thursday. The Latvian league leaders have been back playing since June, have some monied backers and boast five Brazilians in their squad. All of which makes the tie no gimme.
“You can’t under-estimate any of these teams,” said Lennon. “They may incorporate Brazilians, and that will bring a different culture and a different style. Obviously, they will need to be adapted to. I think it is a difficult tie for us. I’m not going to say it’s a walkover, far from it. We’ll do our analysis over the next few days. I think we’ll have to leave a day earlier, on the Tuesday. So that’ll allow us to acclimatise a little bit earlier to the place and the time obviously. So we will leave no stone unturned in our preparations.”
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