Neil Lennon refuses to talk up prospect of tight title race

The joust for the Premiership takes another turn tonight when Celtic and Rangers play other opponents at exactly the same time for the first time this season.
Celtic manager Neil Lennon during training at Lennoxtown.Celtic manager Neil Lennon during training at Lennoxtown.
Celtic manager Neil Lennon during training at Lennoxtown.

It could mean the rampant champions – who have netted 13 goals in three games as they have claimed big wins over Ross County, Lazio and Aberdeen in the past week and a half – losing top spot if they do not see off St Mirren at home, as the Ibrox men meet Ross County at Dingwall. Neil Lennon, though, isn’t interested in talking up the prospect of a nip-and-tuck title race.

“I’ve been asked do you think it will go to goal difference, and I’m not a clairvoyant,” said the Celtic manager. “We are ten games into the season, so I think it is good for everyone. It keeps the intensity levels up. I think the players are enjoying the challenge both 
domestically and Europe.

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“But, from a manager’s point of view, I’d rather be 20 points clear in March. I’ll take what I can get. And, at the minute, I’m getting really good performances and results so it’s just step by step really. I get asked these questions all the time but you can’t predict it. We may have a drop off or we may kick on, we may get a spate of injuries, I don’t know. So it is important just to enjoy what we are doing at the minute and look forward to another important game tomorrow.”

Lennon won’t make changes to his team, despite the encounter being one of seven in little over three weeks. “When you are playing well you just come in, do your recovery and get ready to go again and I think a lot of players like that,” he said. “It’s demanding, but sometimes you give them a rest and it knocks them off kilter. Psychologically, they switch off, so while they’re playing well and in the groove I’m not going to give them a rest.”

He concedes, though, that with Odsonne Edouard shouldering the central striker duties on his own, adding a forward in the January window might become a consideration. “We need to get [Leigh] Griffiths back in and around it to give us more depth and support,” he said.

“The sooner he gets fit, the better [he started training on Thursday]. You get anxiety [around Edouard] because he is a quality player and you don’t want to lose him at any time. If it is the case, hopefully Bayo, Griffiths and couple of others could slot in there.

“We’re getting goals from all over and that may be magnified if we were to lose Odsonne for any period of time. Mikey [Johnston] can do it, [Ryan] Christie can do it. But you don’t want to lose Odsonne for any games because he is so pivotal to the way we play. We’d just have to manage it if that eventuality comes around. It may be an area we’ll look at. But there are no set targets, as yet.”