Celtic V Ross County at Celtic Park : Match Preview

28 March 2014 06:01
Celtic V Ross County - view commentary, squad, and statistics of the game live.

Lennon has eyes on world stage

Neil Lennon will cast an eye on the World Cup in Brazil this summer in an attempt to find another gem like Emilio Izaguirre to bolster his Celtic team for next season.

The 27-year-old Honduras left-back was signed from Motagua in his homeland in the wake of his displays at the World Cup in South Africa four years ago and has developed into an integral part of the Hoops' side.

After Celtic clinched their third successive title with a 5-1 win over Partick Thistle at Firhill on Wednesday night, Lennon turned his attention to next season and what he will have to do to replenish his squad.

The Northern Irishman admitted that "it is looking more and more likely" that Greece forward Georgios Samaras, who is out of contract at the end of the season "will be playing his football elsewhere," and there is speculation about the future of Dutch defender Virgil van Dijk and keeper Fraser Forster.

However, Lennon knows where he might find replacements.

Ahead of the visit of Ross County on Saturday, he said: "We watched Emilio at the World Cup in 2010, particularly against Spain and he played very well against Navas.

"Obviously we decided to take him in and he has proved to be a very good buy for us.

"So there is no question that the World Cup may come to our advantage but I am sure 100 per cent of all the managers will be saying the same thing.

"I would like to go. The last one I went to, France 1998, the opening game of the World Cup was between Scotland and Brazil, so even though it is the other side of the world I may look at the opportunity of going at some stage to do some scouting."

The former Celtic skipper is aware that his side's championship win, in the absence of traditional rivals Rangers who are making their way up through the leagues after falling into administration and liquidation, did not elicit widespread praise, particularly from south of the border.

However, Lennon used an Andy Murray analogy to insist the Parkhead club's achievement should not be talked down.

"Probably the overview isn't great because Rangers aren't here," he said.

"That is a realism and there is nothing we can do about that.

"But I don't like the word devalued or anything like that.

"When Andy Murray won Wimbledon there was no Rafael Nadal so does that mean his Wimbledon title is devalued because the best player in the world wasn't at it? No, it doesn't.

"Nor should it mean the same with the titles we win.

"I think because we are the dominant team that what is overlooked is that we have some very good players here.

"And every season throws up different challenges.

"This year we sold some very good players and it was a challenge to replace them and I have not finished trying to do that.

"But some of the players who have come in have definitely improved, particularly the second-half of the season."

Adam Matthews is out for Celtic. The Wales defender sustained a hamstring injury on Wednesday night as the Hoops wrapped up the title, as did midfielder Charlie Mulgrew, who is doubtful.

Graham Carey is looking to put a dampener on Celtic's title celebrations.

A huge home crowd turn out in expected on Saturday to show their appreciation against a Staggies side who are in ninth place and battling to stay away from the relegation play-off spot.

Carey, 24, who started his career at Celtic, is relishing the return to his former stomping ground and is keen to upset the odds.

"These are the kind of games you want to play in," he said.

"It will be a full house.

"They scored five goals on Wednesday night so you can't really play with much more freedom but the shackles will be off them

"They will be focused on the game. You can't play for Celtic if you can't focus on games like this.

"They won't want to be losing on the day that the fans will come out.

"They are going to get chances so we will need a bit of luck but hopefully we can get something from the game."

Celtic hammered County 4-1 in Dingwall in November but Carey preferred to look back to the opening game of the season at Celtic Park when Derek Adams' men put up a much better show, despite going down 2-1 after taking an early lead through Darren Maatsen.

The former Republic of Ireland Under-21 player, who joined the Staggies from St Mirren last summer, said: "We need to remember the game we played at Celtic Park when we were unlucky not to get something out of the match.

"We need to take confidence from that.

"We held on well but it was a set-piece that let us down."

County boss Adams has an unchanged squad for the contest at Celtic Park.

Source: PA