Celtic V Hibernian at Celtic Park : Match Preview

13 December 2013 05:01
Celtic V Hibernian - view commentary, squad, and statistics of the game live.

Lennon: Celtic won't spend big

Neil Lennon insists Celtic will not stray from their frugal signing policy despite their Champions League exit - because it is "impossible" for the Hoops to compete with Europe's top spenders.

The Scottish champions were hammered 6-1 by Barcelona at the Nou Camp on Wednesday as they finished rock bottom of Group H.

It was a far cry from last year's European campaign which saw them beat the Catalan giants on their way to the last 16.

Following that painful midweek defeat, midfielder Kris Commons claimed the club need to abandon their buy-cheap-sell-high approach and instead invest heavily on quality targets if they were to compete with the continent's biggest sides.

But Lennon - who admitted his side were financial "lightweights" compared to group-stage opponents Barca, AC Milan and Ajax - believes that is too much of a gamble with the club's meagre resources.

"It's not that it's hard to compete with these sides financially, it's impossible," said the Northern Irishman. "Barcelona's wage bill is B#210million. Ours is a fraction of that.

"We are in a difficult position because of where we play our football domestically.

"When you have three qualifiers you have no guarantee that you will get to the Champions League. When you do [qualify], you have a two-week window to attract players and that is a difficult thing to do. Even when we bought Virgil Van Dijk and Amido Balde in June, we only had three weeks before we were playing qualifiers.

"Even if we has spent B#7million on a striker, would that have guaranteed us getting into the last 16?

"Shakhtar Donetsk spent B#160million and didn't qualify. Juventus didn't, Naopli didn't, neither did Benfica. We overachieved last year [when we got to the last 16] but this time finished fourth in a group where we were seeded fourth. It is what it is."

He added: "But the challenge of it is to try and compete on the pitch. Somewhere in the back of my crappy old mind, I think we can beat these sides. Sometimes you get a bloody nose and sometimes you get a result like last year when we beat Barcelona."

But Lennon - who attended a board meeting on Friday morning - refused to take issue with Commons' outburst, saying: "Look, I did the same in 2005 after we lost to Shakhtar Donetsk. Dermot Desmond spoke to me after and made it pretty clear where we are. Maybe Kris needs to be made aware of that too.

"In the raw emotion of a defeat like that things can get said that maybe he means but probably doesn't understand the full story. Maybe for some of the senior players it's important we sit them down and explain where we really are."

Still angry with his side's display against Barca, Lennon has promised change for Saturday's Scottish Premiership clash with Hibernian at Celtic Park.

He said: "I picked a team to do a job on Wednesday and I have to take responsibility for that. It hurts me more than anyone else. I'm a proud man and I didn't like what I saw in some facets of the game."

Hibernian's Paul Cairney insists he is not worried about being tagged a diver.

The midfielder was sent off at Ross County a fortnight ago after collecting a second yellow card when referee Craig Thomson decided he had deliberately taken a tumble as he tried to go past goalkeeper Mark Brown.

His Dingwall dismissal followed two controversial incidents last year, both involving Kilmarnock.

The first saw then Kilmarnock boss Kenny Shiels claim the former Partick player should be suspended, with the Northern Irishman insisting Cairney had gone down too easily to win a spot-kick during a clash in Leith in September 2012.

And the second two months later saw him booked for diving as he tried to go past Michael Nelson - now one of his Hibernian colleagues - during a 1-1 draw at Rugby Park.

The big defender later cleared Cairney of simulation and the 26-year-old says he is not worried about gaining the type of reputation that has troubled Aberdeen youngster Peter Pawlet.

Cairney said: "I was disappointed to get sent off against County.

"The same thing happened twice last year with Kilmarnock and everyone came out and said I was a diver.

"It can be hard for the refs. They have to make a decision in a split-second and have thousands of fans shouting at them.

"Kenny Shiels had a lot to say after the first incident but I had to have a wee chuckle when he came out and said all those things.

"But then the next time we played them, Michael Nelson brought me down in the box and I got booked. But then Nelson came out on TV and said it was a stonewall penalty, so it obviously just comes down to who you get referee-wise.

"But it's now three times I've had this in the last year and a bit. It's frustrating because I know I'm definitely not diving. But am I worried about getting a reputation? No, it's not something I'm bothered about."

Hibs face a daunting trip to Celtic Park on Saturday to face the club Cairney supported as a boy.

He struck his first Hibs goal in a 2-2 draw at Parkhead last season as his equaliser denied Neil Lennon's side the three points.

But Cairney admits the weekend trip might leave his dad, Paul senior, with split loyalties.

The midfielder - who has played just three games this term after an ankle injury kept him out for four months - said: "I scored there last season and hopefully I can score again on Saturday.

"My dad will be there again but will be in the Celtic end. However, he will want Hibs to win and for me to put in a strong performance.

"His friends gave me a bit of stick for scoring against them but if we can get a victory this time I will be giving them plenty back."

Scott Robertson could return for Hibernian as they head west.

The former Scotland midfielder missed last weekend's match with Partick due to a hamstring strain but is back in the squad for the Scottish Premiership meeting with Lennon's Hoops.

Defender James McPake had surgery on a back injury this week but will not be back in action until the New Year, while striker Paul Heffernan (thigh) and winger Alex Harris (ankle) are still short of fitness.

Source: PA