Neil Lennon has claimed Celtic away is currently the “ultimate” game in Scottish football as his Hibs side attempt to smash the Glasgow side’s 57-match unbeaten run in domestic competition.
The Hibs boss, however, conceded his players face their toughest test since returning to the Premiership in their bid to do so, acknowledging no-one outwith Easter Road expects them to become the first team to beat Celtic since St Johnstone 16 months ago.
Lennon returns to Celtic Park for the first time since his successes as a player and manager of the Hoops, but he is not alone, striker Anthony Stokes and defender Efe Ambrose doing likewise with their experience, alongside that of Steven Whittaker, five years in the blue of Rangers, crucial to Hibs’ hopes.
“How do you stop this Celtic team?” mused Lennon. “It’s the question every manager is trying to figure out. You need a massive amount of concentration and discipline and you need to be quite ruthless when you get opportunities, however many that might be. Set pieces might be important and you will have to chase the game because Celtic dominate the ball, not just in Scotland but in a lot of games in Europe.
“Patience is a virtue the players are going to need and there is that other commodity you cannot put your finger on – luck. You need to have a bit of luck along the way, your goalkeeper to play well and the players to believe in what they are doing.”
Describing Celtic’s form as “imperious”, Lennon insisted he won’t have to motivate his players while claiming that whatever the outcome may be, it won’t be a barometer of Hibs season.
He said: “Subconsciously they’ll have been looking forward to it. This is the ultimate game in Scottish football at the minute, Celtic away is the toughest test. It’s a game where you want to show your best so in terms of motivating them, I don’t think it will be a problem.
“I think we are a good side, our home form can be better but we have played well away from home. It is the acid test for us, but it won’t be a barometer, win, lose of draw for what our season holds. It’s a free hit as far as we are concerned because no-one expects us to go there and getting anything which takes the pressure off.
“It’s a brilliant game to play in, a 60,000 sell-out and one reason why promotion was so important, that we have these fixtures back again.”