Neil Lennon showers praise on Celtic stars as he expects 'really strong squad' for Rangers visit

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Neil Lennon insists it is a joy to be Celtic manager as they prepare to face Rangers at Parkhead on Sunday.

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The Hoops are five points ahead of their Old Firm rivals at the top of the Ladbrokes Premiership albeit having played a game more.

Neil Lennon congratulates Boli Bolingoli and Christopher Jullien after Celtic's 2-1 win over St Mirren. Picture: SNS

Neil Lennon congratulates Boli Bolingoli and Christopher Jullien after Celtic's 2-1 win over St Mirren. Picture: SNS

But the treble treble winners beat the Light Blues 1-0 in the Betfred Cup final at Hampden Park earlier in the month and won 2-0 in their league encounter at Ibrox in September.

Lennon's side have won all 10 home league games this season and 11 in a row in the league, while qualifying for the last-32 of the Europa League, and their relentlessly good form leads him to believe they are playing as well as at any time during his two spells as boss.

The Northern Irishman said: "They are a brilliant bunch.

"It's not been ideal to have a few important players out through injury and we have had to rejig things a little bit, but now slowly but surely we get a full complement of players back at a really good time.

"Probably for some of them a bit too late because we are going into the break. But for this game it is great to have a really strong squad

"We keep the training sharp, keep it intense, the fitness levels are good and they look after themselves really well.

"And their mentality is absolutely excellent. They play the game - and it is a difficult thing to do - the way people will perceive the proper way. Great pace in the team, players who excite you, three players at least in double figures already the season which is a great return.

"The midfield been really strong, all season, the two centre-halves have a great partnership.

"We've got a great goalkeeper and players you can score at any time from any position, so it's a sum of all parts and it's a joy for me to be in this position at the minute."

The former Celtic captain was asked if there was more pressure on Steven Gerrard's side going into the last game of the year.

"I don't know, you would need to ask Steven that," he said.

"Whatever the context is in all these games, you want to win for bragging rights or for the supporters more than anything else.

"For this one, there's a big three points at stake and we really want to win it."

Lennon bristled a bit when reminded that Rangers had been the best side in the Betfred Cup final.

He said: "You have to remember we didn't have a fit centre forward, which is pretty important.

"We had Boli Bolingoli out and Greg Taylor cup-tied so we had to rejig things with Jonny Hayes (at left-back) as well and we were down to 10 men and they still came through.

"Many would feel we didn't play our best, and that's a fair assessment. We still won.

"People talk about the cup final, we will talk about the performance at Ibrox where we were totally dominant and won the game comfortably.

"We look forward to it, we will be strong as we can and take it from there.

"We are confident but quietly confident. We are not shouting from the rooftops just yet. There is a long way to go."