NEIL LENNON believes the Champions League has been a "great substitute" for the absence of Rangers from the Scottish Premier League this season.
The Ibrox club relaunched itself in Division Three at the start of the season after financial problems consigned them to liquidation in the summer.
But the loss of four Old Firm derbies in the SPL, according to the Hoops boss, has been compensated by Celtic's Champions League journey which could continue after tonight's final Group G match against Spartak Moscow at Parkhead.
With seven points from five games, including a famous 2-1 home win over Barcelona, the Scottish champions will go through to the last 16 if they get a better result against Spartak, who prop up the group, than Benfica get in the Nou Camp.
When asked about life without Rangers at the pre-match press conference at Celtic Park last night, Lennon said: "There is no doubt it has been difficult at times.
"There has been an economic problem with not having the four Old Firm games this season, a lot of revenue and interest has been taken away.
"Getting through to the Champions League has been a sort of great substitute, certainly for the players and supporters, they have really enjoyed the campaign so far.
"As regards next year, it will be the exact same remit.
"I think we might have three qualifiers to get through so it will make qualifying even more difficult.
"But that is just the reality of where we are so we have to accept that and make the best of what we have and that is exactly what Celtic are trying to do."
Spartak caretaker coach Valery Karpin insists his side, who have just pride to play for, will not take the game lightly.
The former Russia midfielder said: "We have a lot of things to prove and it us up to the players to prove they are up to the challenge."