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St Mirren V Celtic at Hampden Park : Match Preview
Published : 26 Jan 2013 14:01:26
St Mirren V Celtic - view commentary, squad, and statistics of the game live.
Lennon hails Celtic's recent form
Neil Lennon believes Celtic have "found their mojo" as they head into Sunday's Scottish Communities League Cup semi-final against St Mirren at Hampden.
The Hoops returned from the winter break which included a training camp in Spain to hit the ground running with two convincing wins at Parkhead.
A 4-1 thrashing of Hearts was followed by a 4-0 thumping of Dundee United, results and performances which cemented their place at the top of the Clydesdale Bank Premier League and buoyed the Celtic boss ahead of the trip to the national stadium where they have the chance to reach the first cup final of the season.
"I am delighted, they have played great," said Lennon.
"Playing at home this season, at times, was a bit of a bugbear but they seem to have found their mojo at home and the last two performances have been superb.
"One of the criticisms I had of the team, particularly in domestic games, was that back to front we were excellent in our build-up (but couldn't score).
"We had about 70 per cent possession against Hibs and couldn't score but now we have found our goalscoring touch in the last two games and that is really pleasing.
"I have no idea (why), maybe they just needed a break.
"But I looked at the schedule coming up and it is really heavy, there is no respite for the players."
The in-form Parkhead men are overwhelming favourites to beat a struggling St Mirren team who have not won a point nor even scored a goal against Celtic in their last eight meetings.
Lennon, though, insists the Scottish Football League-sanctioned match ball, which will be used at Hampden, could have an effect on the outcome of the game.
"It might seem insignificant to most people but it is very important that the players adapt to the ball as quickly as possible," said the former Celtic skipper.
"It is lighter and has more of a laminate coating than the balls we use in the SPL.
"They travel differently and move in the air a bit differently so for the goalkeepers and outfield players it is very important that they adapt."
Fraser Forster will be missing again for Celtic. The Hoops goalkeeper is on the mend following a neck injury which has kept him out of the last two matches and Lennon will "not take any chances with him."
Midfielder Kris Commons is a doubt with a rib injury and will be assessed while defender Kelvin Wilson returns from suspension.
St Mirren manager Danny Lennon insists his side are not the sizeable long-shots that the bookies would have fans believe.
The Paisley side are rated at just 13/2 to upset the form guide and halt a run of eight successive defeats to the Glasgow giants.
But despite having never managed a win over Celtic in his two-and-a-half years in charge of the Buddies - nor even mustered a goal in eight attempts - he insists his team can prevail.
He told Press Association Sport: "In a lot of people's minds, they think it would take a miracle for St Mirren to beat Celtic. Not in my mind though.
"Sometimes football defies logic and miracles can happen. Just look at Chelsea beating Bayern Munich and Barcelona to win the Champions League last year, Kilmarnock beating Celtic in the League Cup Final last season, or Arbroath taking Celtic to a replay in the Scottish Cup this year and only losing narrowly by 1-0.
"And then this week Bradford having a result against a big fish like Aston Villa in the Capital One Cup. If you work hard like all those sides, the underdog can have their day."
Lennon, meanwhile, is hopeful that Newcastle defender Paul Dummett will return for a second loan stint this term after the Magpies secured the signing of French left-back Massadio Haidara.
However, the Saints boss admits the Englishman may not arrive in time for Sunday's match.
He said: "We've been led to believe that Newcastle have signed another left-back which could allow Paul to return.
"However, we have got to be careful as he is Newcastle's player and they are looking after their own interests at this moment in time. But they are under no illusions about the fact we want the lad back.
"We remain optimistic that we will have him back before the end of January."
St Mirren could give their new Portuguese arrival Esmael Goncalves his debut after he was granted international clearance.
Lennon, however, says it is "touch and go" whether midfielder Kenny McLean will recover in time from his knee ligament injury to play a part in the Hampden show-piece.