Monday 20 January 2020

Lennon expects tough Granite trip

Gavin McCafferty

Celtic manager Neil Lennon has clear memories of the Aberdeen glory days – some fond and some painful – and is relishing a top-of-the-table clash at Pittodrie.

Lennon's team travel to the Granite City one point above Craig Brown's men, who have only lost once in the Scottish Premier League since their 1-0 defeat at Parkhead on the opening day.

The televised midday game has captured the imagination in the north-east of Scotland with Aberdeen having the chance to leapfrog Celtic and leaders Hibernian and go top of the SPL, even if it might only be for a matter of hours.

Lennon grew up in an era when Alex Ferguson's Aberdeen dominated Scottish football.

"Obviously I remember that great Aberdeen team, and the highlight was the Cup Winners' Cup final against Real Madrid," the former Northern Ireland international said.

"I remember sitting in the house as a boy watching it and jumping up and down because it was a Scottish team that were doing it. They were an exceptional team in exceptional times."

After the collapse of Rangers, Celtic were generally expected to surge well ahead in the title race, but they have faced a challenge at home from Aberdeen and Pat Fenlon's Hibs, teams who have struggled in recent years, while exceeding expectations in the Champions League.

"I think it's very healthy for Aberdeen," Lennon said. "I'm sure there will be a really good crowd. They have recruited well in the summer.

"It will be a good atmosphere, you'll have two big clubs in Scotland going at it and we'll not be thinking about Benfica until 2.0 tomorrow."

Lennon had prepared a response to those criticising his side's SPL form, which has seen them pick up two points from three games and often struggle around the European fixtures.

"I have done a bit of research. In Germany, Borussia Dortmund are 11 points behind, Ajax are nine points behind, Real Madrid are eight points behind," he said.

"A lot of teams are struggling to compete in both."

Celtic v Aberdeen,

Live, ESPN, 12.0

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