Hibs boss caught in a quandary as he prepares for Celtic
Neil Lennon admits he has a lot of hard thinking to do as he attempts to plot a way to end former club Celtic's astonishing run of 57 games unbeaten against Scottish opposition.
Lennon will enjoy an emotional return to the east end of Glasgow on Saturday but, he insisted, that will last only 30 seconds before he gets down to business, with his entire focus being on Hibs cementing their place in the top half of the Ladbrokes Premiership.
However, he revealed that, as yet, he doesn’t quite know how he’d go about it, saying: “If we sit in and lose 1-0 or 2-0, I will be raging. If we go and have a go at them and lose 5-0, I will be raging. But it is a free hit for us.”
Lennon watched the first half of Celtic’s 2-0 win against Old Firm rivals Rangers before seeing his own players end a run of four league games without a win thanks to a Paul Hanlon strike against Ross County, that glimpse of Brendan Rodgers’s side at Ibrox merely underlining the daunting task which lies ahead.
He said: “Celtic seem to have found their groove, they looked very impressive from the snippets of game I saw, but we knew that. They are an exceptionally good team at the minute and when they really turn it on they can really damage you from a variety of positions.
“Whatever way you set up, they will find a way to beat you. They are physically and mentally really good so it is going to be a difficult afternoon – but it is not insurmountable.”
Having won 11 trophies in seven years as a Celtic player and five more in a four-year spell as manager, Lennon is likely to get a warm reception from the home fans. Conceding Celtic are “a very special club to me”, he said: “It will be a bit emotional, a bit unreal going back there and being in the opposition dug-out.
“But it will be emotional for all of 30 seconds, then it’s down to work. Hibs are my team now. It will be a difficult 90 minutes for us to get through, so we just have to prepare as best we possibly can.”
Celtic have to negotiate tomorrow night’s crucial Champions League match against Anderlecht in Brussels and, while he believes Rodgers’ players can cause the Belgian outfit plenty of problems, Lennon also acknowledged from his own experience such games can result in a Euro hangover.
He said: “I always think it’s a disadvantage come the weekend. These games do take a lot out of you and we need to make the most of any advantage we can get.”
And, were Hibs to pull off what would be a shock win, Lennon joked: “I might lose a few friends.”