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Lennon to rely on Stokes for cup bid

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Celtic's Stokes celebrates scoring against Aberdeen during their Scottish Premier League soccer match in Glasgow, Scotland...Celtic's Anthony Stokes celebrates scoring against Aberdeen during their Scottish Premier League soccer match at Parkhead stadium in Glasgow, Scotland January 22, 2011. REUTERS/David Moir (BRITAIN - Tags: SPORT SOCCER)...S

Celtic's Stokes celebrates scoring against Aberdeen during their Scottish Premier League soccer match in Glasgow, Scotland...Celtic's Anthony Stokes celebrates scoring against Aberdeen during their Scottish Premier League soccer match at Parkhead stadium in Glasgow, Scotland January 22, 2011. REUTERS/David Moir (BRITAIN - Tags: SPORT SOCCER)...S

Celtic's Stokes celebrates scoring against Aberdeen during their Scottish Premier League soccer match in Glasgow, Scotland...Celtic's Anthony Stokes celebrates scoring against Aberdeen during their Scottish Premier League soccer match at Parkhead stadium in Glasgow, Scotland January 22, 2011. REUTERS/David Moir (BRITAIN - Tags: SPORT SOCCER)...S

NEIL LENNON is looking for Anthony Stokes to lead Celtic's Scottish Cup bid.

On the back of three consecutive Hampden defeats by Kilmarnock, Hearts and St Mirren, Celtic return to the National Stadium on Sunday to meet Dundee United for a place in the Scottish Cup Final.

The relationship between Lennon and Stokes has often been strained but underneath the surface there is a mutual bond of respect between manager and player.

Stokes missed out on five months of the season through injury and despite the competition of Gary Hooper, Georgios Samaras and Tony Watt has fought his way into the forefront of Lennon's plans.

Celtic have five SPL matches left to play plus their involvement in the Scottish Cup with Lennon looking for Stokes to prove that he's worth a new improved deal.

"It will be important for Stokesy to keep going," his manager said.

"He will be playing in these games. He has missed a large chunk of the season, and I think he wants to play anyway.

"He is looking very fit at the minute so it is maybe good to give some of the others a rest and let him play.

"He has played well at home. Against Dundee United, when we won 6-2, he got a couple. Then, against Dundee, when we won 5-0, he did well.

Dip

"He tailed off for a couple games after that, but he was a lot better on Saturday against Hibs. He has got to keep playing at that level. I don't want him to dip again."

Celtic's recent Hampden record will dominate the build-up to Sunday's game with Lennon desperate to ensure that the season is extended through to another cup final appearance.

"The Scottish Cup was the first trophy I won as a manager,"he added. "That was two years ago and I'd like to go back to the final again.

"But we're up against a Dundee United side which will be buoyant after making it into the top six on the final day before the split. We are going to have to play better than we did against St Mirren in the League Cup semi-final."


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