Neil Lennon admits concern over international break ahead of Rangers clash

Celtic v Hibernian – Scottish Premiership – Celtic Park
(Image credit: Jane Barlow)

Neil Lennon hopes the international break does not cost Celtic for the Old Firm game against Rangers.

Callum McGregor, Ryan Christie and Greg Taylor are in the Scotland squad for the Euro 2020 play-off semi-final against Israel and the Nations League games against Slovakia and Czech Republic before the visit of Steven Gerrard’s side on October 17.

Shane Duffy will also be with Republic of Ireland and Kristoffer Ajer and Mohamed Elyounoussi with Norway, while Nir Bitton and Hatem Elhamed are set to be in the Israel squad for the game at Hampden.

Ahead of the Europa League play-off against Sarajevo in Bosnia on Thursday night, the Hoops boss revealed James Forrest will miss the Gers game with an ankle injury.

Asked if he had any concerns about his Scottish internationals, Lennon said: “Yes, massive. It’s not just the Scottish boys, it is the Israeli boys, the Norwegians, Shane with Ireland, all our international boys who are going away could be involved in three games.

“That would mean play on the Wednesday, and then travel back on Thursday with the (Rangers) game on Saturday morning so we would have no time whatsoever on the training ground with them really.

“And so yeah, it’s a cause for concern, one; picking up injuries.

“And then two; the little time that we’ll have with them when they come back.”

Forrest picked up his injury in last week’s Europa League win against Riga.

Lennon admitted there was no definite time scale on his recovery and when asked if he would be out for Rangers game he said: “Yes, I would imagine so.

“We are a little concerned about James because it is a sore one and we haven’t got a length of time on it just as yet.”

Switzerland striker Albian Ajeti picked up a hamstring injury scoring against Hibernian at the weekend but while he will not face Sarajevo, Lennon is hoping he is back for the visit of the Light Blues.

The former Celtic midfielder said: “Ajeti won’t travel, he’s not fit and not available, neither is James as we touched on before.

“We are hoping Albian will be fit for the Rangers game in a few weeks times. James is going to be a bit longer but we haven’t got a certified time on that yet.

“Christopher Jullien is fit and back in the squad so Albian is the only absentee from the weekend.”

Celtic beat Sarajevo home and away in their first Champions League qualifier last season but Lennon does not believe it will have too much bearing on this one-off match.

He said: “You can compare, you can look at our team that has changed over the piece and their team as well.

“You can take bits and pieces from it but it is not going to really have an effect or be of much relevance to tomorrow night.

“They are in good form, they have won their last four games, they are a big physical team, well organised, a threat at set plays and they have a bit of pace in wider areas.

“So we know it is going to be a difficult game just as much as Riga was last week.

“Riga gave everything, I imagine Sarajevo will do the same and we have to match that intensity if they bring it and bring our own intensity to the game because it means as much to us as anybody else.”

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