Neil Lennon details only black mark on Celtic squad in 2020 so far

Neil Lennon insists Celtic ’s European woe is the only black mark on what has been a brilliant season so far.

The Hoops were on course for a record-equaling ninth successive Scottish Premiership title before the coronavirus outbreak struck.

Since losing to bitter rivals Rangers in their last Old firm game last last year Lennon’s men have boasted an almost perfect domestic record.

And that left them 13 points ahead of the Gers before all fixtures were postponed due to COVID-19, while they were still on for another domestic treble.

However, there was Europa League disappointment in the last 32 when Celtic suffered a surprise defeat at home to Copenhagen.

This followed an exit in the Champions League qualifiers at the start of the season after there were high hopes for the team.

And while Lennon praised his players for their imperious form once again for the most part, their European exploits have clearly left a bitter taste.

Reflecting on Celtic’s form since returning from a winter break in Dubai, Lennon said: “What’s pleased me has been the quality of our performances. Even if you look at our last game against St Mirren when we beat them 5-0.

“To do that at this stage of the season is pretty impressive because we were struggling to score goals this time last year, so the amount of goals we’ve scored and the amount of wins we’ve racked up is impressive.

“And since the turn of the year, to go unbeaten domestically and only drop two points is fantastic, and we reached the semi-final of the Scottish Cup – we’ve already won the League Cup – so it just shows how well we’ve played.

“You can’t take that for granted, and we had the European campaign, on top of that. It’s been pretty impressive, to say the least, from the players and I’m so proud of them.

“The only disappointment to me, really, was going out of Europe the way we did. That was really disappointing because we really felt we could make inroads into the competition.”

Celtic will be hoping to seal the title shortly after things get back to normal after coronavirus lockdown is lifted.

Should they go on to win the league then it sets up what could be a historical season next year as they look for an unprecedented 10 in a row.

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Coronavirus fears should not stop Celtic being declared champions – Neil Lennon

Neil Lennon insists Celtic should be crowned champions if the Scottish Premiership season cannot be completed because of the coronavirus outbreak.

The Hoops are currently 13 points clear of Rangers at the top of the league and were odds-on to claim a ninth successive title.

But with fixtures being postponed because of the virus, the whole season is up in the air at the moment.

SPFL chief executive Neil Doncaster confirmed on Friday said it was "neither realistic nor possible" to continue amid the outbreak.

But Lennon, who described the situation as a “nightmare”, claims his team should be awarded the title whatever happens.

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"If it was to stop now I would doubt very much that they would say it was null and void," he added.

"It could be death by a thousand cuts. We have played over 30 games, that's well over two thirds of the season so we should be declared champions.

"Certainly, if you are talking about the Armageddon of the league being cancelled or stopped, it should go on the average points total which would make us clear champions and rightly so.

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"We are over 30 games in to the season, they are not going to take that away from us."

Celtic could have extended their lead over Rangers by beating them in this weekend’s Old Firm encounter.

As of yet there is no indication of when the game will be re-arranged for or whether it will take place at all.

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But the current Scottish champions could see their chances of making history evaporated in the blink of an eye.

Not only were they on course for a fourth domestic treble in a row this season, winning the league this time would put them one more title win away from eclipsing the Scottish record for successive title wins.

Rangers and Celtic have both had runs of winning nine consecutive league titles, but no team has ever won it 10 times in a row.

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Can Celtic draw Old Firm rivals Rangers in Europa League last 16?

Celtic could go head-to-head with Rangers should they progress in the Europa League.

The Hoops take a slender lead into their second-leg on Thursday after a 1-1 draw in Norway last week, with Neil Lennon’s men in a fine run of form.

Cohenhagen will need to put in a fine performance if they are to beat a side who have won 21 of their 23 home games in all competitions this season.

If the Premiership leaders do make it into the last 16 of the European competition for the first time since the 2007/08 season.

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The Old Firm rivals were not able to meet in the current round of fixtures due to UEFA keeping teams from the same country apart until the last 16.

That means Lennon could go head-to-head with Steven Gerrard to see which side reaches the quarter-finals, with the draw taking place on Friday.

"I'm not going to blow my own trumpet," Lennon said on the year anniversary of his return to Parched.

"It seems like yesterday but a long, long time in my life. [It's been] very tumultuous, exciting, raw at times but immensely fulfilling.

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"I'm not going to take too much credit as of yet, if any. I'm delighted with the way this season's gone but there's still a couple of months to go."

He added when asked about this evening’s clash: ”Copenhagen are a dangerous team.

“It's 1-1 so the tie could psychologically switch either way. Hopefully we can score the first goal but we're going to have to earn the right to play.

"It's been fantastic so far, I want it to continue I want us to be in the last 16.

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“I think we're good enough to do that but we're going to have to play well.

"We've come up short at this round the last couple of years and we want to better that if we can.

“It's going to be a big European night and one to savour hopefully."

Celtic will be without the injured Olivier Ntcham and suspended Ryan Christie this evening, but James Forrest and captain Scott Brown have been passed fit.

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