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Neil Lennon expects tough challenge for Celtic from ‘streetwise’ Kilmarnock

Celtic v Lille – UEFA Europa League – Group H – Celtic Park
(Image credit: Jane Barlow)

Neil Lennon expects a “streetwise” Kilmarnock side to visit Celtic Park on Sunday.

The Hoops’ 3-2 Europa League dead-rubber triumph over Lille on Thursday night was their first win in six matches and their first home victory since September.

The Celtic boss is looking for his team to take that confidence boost into the Scottish Premiership, where they sit 13 points behind unbeaten leaders Rangers but have two games in hand.

Lennon is expecting a difficult afternoon against Alex Dyer’s men, who held the champions to a 1-1 draw at Rugby Park in August.

He said: “They are such a difficult team at times to break down, particularly at home.

“But they have had some good results in Glasgow, they are a smart, streetwise team.

“Alex has continued on in his own style from Steve (Clarke, former Killie boss), they have that great sort of togetherness and I expect it to be, under the circumstances, as tough as any game we will get.”

After bringing 22-year-old goalkeeper Conor Hazard, 21-year-old David Turnbull and his fellow midfielder Ismaila Soro, 22, into the side for the Lille game, Lennon will have to decide whether to retain them or return to more experienced men such as Vasilis Barkas, Scott Brown and Ryan Christie.

And the Northern Irishman knows there is little margin for error if Celtic are to revive their league campaign and make it 10 titles in a row.

He said: “We have to win a lot of games now but they have done it before.

“It is just a question of, and it is an old cliche, taking it step by step, just looking at the next game, putting in a performance.

“Are we capable of winning it (Killie)? Of course we are, and we will take it from there.

“We would love them to have the same mindset (as in the Lille game), not to put too much pressure on them and let them go and play the same way if we can because if they do they are a very good, exciting team to watch and we know that they are capable of that as well.”