Celtic V Ross County at Celtic Park : Match Preview

02 August 2013 05:01
Celtic V Ross County - view commentary, squad, and statistics of the game live.

Lennon looking for consistency

Neil Lennon accepts Celtic are heavy favourites to win the Scottish Premiership again this season but is looking for his side to do it with more conviction.

The Parkhead club reached the last-16 of the Champions League last season while cantering with the occasional stumble to their second successive title, eventually winning it with 79 points, 16 more than second-placed Motherwell.

Celtic remain on course to reach the group stages of Europe's elite club competition again following their 1-0 home win over Swedish side Elfsborg in the first-leg of their third qualifying round on Wednesday night.

However, ahead of the Scottish Premiership curtain raiser against Ross County at Parkhead on Saturday, Lennon revealed he is looking for his players to find a better level of consistency in their domestic duties.

"I would imagine we would be heavy favourites (to win the league) but there has to be improvement on our domestic form from last year," the Celtic boss said.

"The European run was great and it obviously side-tracked the players a little bit.

"The intensity of the Champions League games and the fall-out afterwards - it was difficult even when I was a player.

"I would like to think we can improve on that, I would like us to be more consistent in the league this year.

"The first part of the season we were a bit iffy at home and very good away and in the second half of the season we were brilliant at home and very iffy away. We lost seven games and I want a big improvement on that.

"We scored a lot of goals. Our goals for was very good, our goals against was down a little bit on the previous two seasons.

"You are always looking at areas where you can improve and at statistics and obviously we would like to get our points haul back up to the mid-80s to 90s.

"I am not getting ahead of myself but obviously what we want is to get back into the group stages of the Champions League.

"We are still a long way away from that and if we can achieve that, it would set the season up brilliantly for us and then we can look at where we went wrong last year."

Lennon, who expects Nottingham Forest to come back with another bid for defender Kelvin Wilson, believes any challenge for their title, such as it is likely to be, will come from Derek McInnes' Aberdeen.

The former Hoops skipper said: "I said it last year and Derek won't thank me for saying it again this year but Aberdeen are a big club although they probably don't have the resources they have had in the past.

"Derek will bring a bit of freshness. He has a good record in Scotland, he has recruited well and has got a good blend of youth and experience.

"If and when they get on a roll, they will certainly bring the crowds in. We went up there last year and there was 18,000 there.

"They have been a little inconsistent over the years but at the minute they probably pose the biggest threat to us, as Motherwell have done in the last couple of years."

Wilson (shin splints), Georgios Samaras (toe) and James Forrest and Mikael Lustig (both stiffness) are all doubts for the visit of the Staggies.

New Ross County recruit Graham Carey believes anything less than a top-six finish this season will be seen as failure.

The Highlanders enjoyed an impressive first campaign in the top flight last year and surprised many by claiming fifth spot instead of battling relegation.

Carey - who signed for County this week - knows the stakes will be much higher this term and admits they must at least match last year's achievements.

He said: "You always want to set high benchmarks for yourself.

"Hopefully this season we can do better than (last season) because that should be the bare minimum, especially with the way the club has progressed over the last few years, with the infrastructure, the training ground and the players they've brought in.

"The minimum requirement is to finish in the top six - less than that will be a failure I think."

Carey joined up with County after being released by St Mirren in the summer and having a trial with Dundee United.

Asked what he can bring to his new club, the midfielder said: "Hopefully more goals and a good work ethic.

"Hopefully I can create goals as well and bring something to the final third of the pitch. It's about revitalising myself as well and pushing on."

The Irishman's superb strike against Hearts was voted goal of the season in the Clydesdale Bank Premier League awards and Carey conceded he should be hitting those heights more often.

He said: "That's what I expect from myself and I don't think I've done it enough of late. Hopefully I can do it this season."

Midfielders Richard Brittain and Ivan Sproule are suspended for the visitors.

The pair both begin two-match bans after being sent off in pre-season friendlies.

Dutch midfielder Melvin De Leeuw is unlikely to start after his pre-season campaign was interrupted by injury.

Source: PA