Lennon calls for improvement from Celtic
Sunday 25 December 2011
Neil Lennon is looking for his Celtic side to make amends for their capitulation at Ibrox earlier in the season when Rangers visit Parkhead on Wednesday night.
The Hoops were brushed aside 4-2 in the first Old Firm derby in September and the champions went on to stretch their lead over the Hoops at the top of the Clydesdale Bank Premier League to 15 points by November 5, albeit having played two games more.
However, a Georgios Samaras double in the 2-1 home win over Kilmarnock yesterday extended Celtic's winning run in the SPL to eight games and took Lennon's side to within a point of the Light Blues, who lost 2-1 at St Mirren.
The Celtic manager, though, remembered the frustrating trip to Govan when asked what type of game he expected in midweek.
"We didn't do ourselves justice at Ibrox so I am looking to my team to be highly motivated and certainly play better and compete better than they did in the second 45 minutes of the first Old Firm game," Lennon said.
"If they do that they will give themselves a great chance of winning the game.
"I don't know [how Rangers will approach the game].
"[Rangers manager] Ally [McCoist] has tried a couple of different formations. He has played three up or one up. But, whatever formation we face on Wednesday, they are the champions and have had a good mentality over the last three or four years.
"But we are in a good place and I want us to go out and stamp our authority on the game if we can."
The Northern Irishman accepts Celtic are in the ascendancy going into the game which could see them go top of the table going into 2012.
"Yes, we have won eight in a row and the form is good," he said. "But we will have to play well, we will have to play strongly and have to play the occasion as best we can.
"We want to continue the winning form and if it means having to beat Rangers then so be it."
Lennon was not surprised by Rangers' defeat in Paisley but gave due respect to the Ibrox side.
"I was not surprised at all. Anything can happen - particularly away from home," said the former Celtic skipper.
"It has happened to us on a few occasions and St Mirren are a decent team at home.
"But I can't comment on Rangers.
"What I will say is that they are a point ahead and are current champions and our biggest rivals for the title and we will have to play very well to beat them."
Left-back Emilio Izaguirre, fully recovered from a broken ankle sustained against Aberdeen in August, was on the bench against Killie and defender Kelvin Wilson came on in the second half following his recovery from an Achilles problem.
Lennon says both players have a chance of a starting place against Rangers.
"Izaguirre is in contention," he said. "We wanted to give him some game time but when the Kilmarnock goal went in, we wanted to shore things up and make sure we didn't concede again.
"Kelvin Wilson is also definitely in contention.
"He was unlucky not to start against Kilmarnock."
Killie boss Kenny Shiels was disappointed with his players' reaction to going two goals down before substitute Danny Racchi fired in a consolation goal but knows he has to quickly turn his attention to the trip to St Johnstone on Wednesday night.
The Northern Irishman said: "We deserved to get something from the game.
"We matched them for long periods but it's all ifs, buts and maybes.
"We are back in on Monday morning to prepare for Wednesday's game."
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