Neil Lennon has urged his Celtic players to hold their heads high in the wake of their chastening defeat by Rangers.
The Scottish champions are still smarting from their 2-0 loss in Saturday’s Old Firm derby at Celtic Park which took Rangers four points clear of their rivals at the top of the Premiership having played a game more.
However, recent form can give comfort to Celtic fans as their side have won the last 11 trophies up for grabs in Scotland and are aiming for a record 10th straight Premiership title.
Ahead of Thursday night’s Europa League Group H opener against AC Milan at Parkhead, Lennon alluded to that success as he looked back at their first defeat in nine games.
He said: “The initial feeling was we were bitterly disappointed.
“We have tried to be positive with the players and they have responded in the right way.
“We get our heads down and work hard but they also have to holds their heads high.
“There is a long way to go. We are not happy with the result but there is plenty of time to improve and bounce back.
“They should be proud of what they have achieved and what they can achieve going forward. All is not lost on one result and one performance.
“These players are amazing and they have done amazing things and I am confident that they will continue to do amazing things for the club.
“However, we have to get the heads down and do some hard work and get the level of performance that we know we are capable of and get a reaction in the next block of games.”
Lennon paid tribute to AC Milan’s 39-year-old star striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic, who warmed up for the trip to Glasgow with a double in the 2-1 win over rivals Inter at the weekend.
The Northern Irishman, who played for Celtic against Ibrahimovic when the Swede came on as substitute for Ajax in a Champions League qualifier at Parkhead in 2001, said: “You can’t dismiss him, he’s still a world-class player.
“I think he is a great role model to all players, professionals, young players, who aspire to play the game at the highest level for the longest time possible.
“He is in fantastic condition, he has a fantastic approach to the game and what he has accomplished in the game has been magnificent and he still wants to accomplish more, so he’s right up there for me, among some of the greatest players of all time.
“And what he’s achieved on the European scene, in different leagues and different clubs and obviously for his country as well, is a one-off. He is very, very special.”
Lennon is looking to freshen his team up with a “couple of changes” and has Ryan Christie, who had to self-isolate after being regarded as a close contact of Stuart Armstrong who tested positive for Covid-19 on Scotland duty, available again.
However, Nir Bitton, Hatem Elhamed and Odsonne Edouard are still out due to coronavirus issues with James Forrest and Christopher Jullien still injured.
Lennon said: “Ryan will be in the squad. We are assessing whether he will be fit to start.
“Odsonne has had a cardiac screening and the blood tests and now we have to do some physiological work with him in terms of getting what the response to his heart rate is from certain exertions before we can clear him to train fully with us again.
“He is going through certain health and safety protocols at the minute.”
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