If Rangers are favourites that suits me fine, says Lennon

The Old Firm rivals have both started the season in impressive fashion.

By Press Association Published: 30 August 2019 - 3.28pm

Celtic manager Neil Lennon is happy to go into Sunday’s clash with Rangers at Ibrox as underdogs on the form they have shown.

All the major bookmakers have selected Rangers as favourites to win the first derby of the Ladbrokes Premiership season in Glasgow.

Steven Gerrard’s men won both Ibrox meetings last season and are unbeaten this term, joining Celtic in the Europa League group stages with a late win over Legia Warsaw on Thursday night.

Rangers have not been behind in any of their 12 matches this season and have only conceded five goals, scoring 32 themselves.

Celtic’s only defeat came against Cluj in the Champions League, while they have now scored 39 goals and shipped 12 following their 4-1 victory over AIK in Sweden.

And Lennon was surprised but not disappointed to find they were rated as outsiders for the trip across Glasgow.

“If the bookies think Rangers are favourite then good, that suits me fine,” he said.

“I don’t know why because our form has been fantastic. We are in goal-scoring form, we are winning games convincingly, so it’s not bad being underdogs with the way we are playing at the minute. I’ll take that.”

Lennon added: “We are in powerful form, particularly going forward. The defence is looking like players are getting more up to speed with how we play and more familiar with their surroundings.

“We have a lot to be looking forward to going into the game.”

While Rangers will have to handle growing expectations, Lennon is confident his players will cope with their fans’ demands that they continue their domestic dominance.

“The players over the last few years have dealt with pressure situations very, very well,” he said.

“It doesn’t become normal because every game is different, but the mentality is good. The mentality for big games and pressure games has been excellent over the last three, four, five years. They are well experienced now for what lies ahead.

“It’s an exciting time. I said to the players before the game on Thursday night, ‘It’s a great time to be a player, you’ve got two cracking games coming up and make the most of it’. They certainly did that on Thursday night.”

Kristoffer Ajer was rated a major doubt after going off with a groin strain early in Stockholm, but the key defender is optimistic of facing Rangers.

Lennon said: “He’s had a little bit of acupuncture on it and he’s getting treatment and we will see how he responds to that on Saturday.

“Touch wood, our injuries seem to be clearing up pretty well. We will have to see how Kris is for Sunday but he is positive about it and Odsonne (Edouard) will be fine.

“But looking at the squad in general, apart from Hatem (Abd Elhamed) who is reaching to get 100 per cent fit, and Tom Rogic, we are in good shape physically even though it’s been a monumental month.

“Jozo (Simunovic) has been rested. He still has the issue with his knee but we are hoping he will be in contention.”

Right-back Moritz Bauer could also be involved following his loan move from Stoke.

“He trained on Thursday, did a light session with the team on Wednesday, so that will be down to what the medical team think and what the fitness coaches think,” Lennon said. “I would imagine he would be in the squad.”