Celtic V Dundee at Celtic Park : Match Preview

23 February 2013 01:31
Celtic V Dundee - view commentary, squad, and statistics of the game live.

Lennon won't be bowed by doom-mongers

Neil Lennon is determined not to be affected by what he claims is the "overwhelming negativity" of Scottish football as his Celtic side surge towards the Clydesdale Bank Premier League title, with Dundee next up.

The Hoops are 19 points clear of Motherwell at the top of the standings and on course to clinch the championship next month.

However, aside from European nights during their exciting journey to the last-16 of the Champions League, in which they play Juventus in Turin next month trying to recover a 3-0 first-leg defeat, Celtic Park has rarely been full this season.

The absence of a league challenge from traditional rivals Rangers, now playing in the Irn-Bru Third Division, has had an effect on attendances and ahead of the visit of bottom side Dundee , Lennon was asked about the prospect of crowds dwindling further as the Hoops disappear over the SPL horizon.

The Celtic boss, who reiterated that the first-half performance in the 1-1 draw against St Johnstone at McDiarmid Park on Tuesday night was the best in all his time as manager, said: "Everyone was doom and gloom at the start of the season but it has been a fantastic season for us.

"We have proved all the doom-mongers wrong and there is a lot of negativity in this country, a lot of it, it is overwhelming sometimes.

"Even when you are doing well.you are so far ahead and it is a one-horse race. I can't do anything about it. The reality of my job is to win, develop the players, develop the team and keep it progressing.

"Why would it be a worry for me when we are 19 points clear? There is nothing I can do about that (fans stopping coming), do you want me to stop winning and let the gap close a little bit and make it more exciting?

"Bayern Munich are 15 points clear in their league, Man United are 12 points clear in their league so why is it just exclusive to us?

"Gates are down all over Europe, there is a recession on and a lot of people are feeling the pinch."

Scott Brown and defender Mikael Lustig will be missing again for Celtic.

Brown has seen a specialist about his abductor problem and will discover on Monday if he requires surgery while Lustig is out with a thigh injury.

Greece striker Georgios Samaras is back after recovering from a hamstring injury but defender Charlie Mulgrew is a doubt with a glute problem.

Dundee chief executive Scot Gardiner claims the club have already been "swamped" with applications for their managerial vacancy after parting company with Barry Smith.

Former captain Smith's time at Dens Park came to an end on Thursday following a string of poor results, which left the Dark Blues rooted to the foot of the table.

His assistant, Ray Farningham, will remain at the club for now.

Gardiner told the Scottish Sun: "We have already had people in touch about the job. In three hours we have been swamped with potential candidates.

"I have now got the task of identifying someone to take charge of the team."

Dundee are 15 points adrift in the SPL but Gardiner revealed the new manager will be tasked with keeping the club in the top flight.

He added: "The board hope changing manager can bring about a change of fortunes. We want to stay in the SPL and stay in the Scottish Cup.

"Nobody at Dundee is giving up on staying up or even getting to the cup final. Both those things are important to us, we are not calling it a day."

Defender Davide Grassi is back in training ahead of the clash.

However, Sunday's game may come too soon following his recovery from a knee injury.

Dundee are still without Stephen O'Donnell (knee), Mark Kerr (knee), Jamie McCluskey (Achilles) and Carl Finnigan (knee).

Source: PA