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Neil Lennon ‘would want answers’ if Ryan Christie ruled out of Old Firm game

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

Neil Lennon says Celtic will want answers if Ryan Christie is absent from Saturday’s Old Firm match while fellow self-isolator Kieran Tierney plays for Arsenal.

The Hoops midfielder and the Gunners defender missed Scotland’s recent triple-header after being in close contact with Stuart Armstrong, who tested positive for Covid-19.

Ahead of the visit of Rangers, the Parkhead boss claimed Celtic were told that Tierney, also told to self-isolate for 14 days, will be available to face Manchester City on Saturday.

Lennon also revealed Odsonne Edouard will be assessed after recovering from Covid-19, which was confirmed while on international duty with France Under-21s, and that Switzerland striker Albian Ajeti has trained after shrugging off a hamstring injury.

“Our medical department have spoken to the (Arsenal) club doctor and they have been given the all-clear for Kieran to go ahead,” Lennon said.

Celtic and Arsenal push for clarity on self-isolation rules

Ryan Christie sits out Old Firm game as he self-isolates (Jeff Holmes/PA)

“Everything is devolved up here and what we have been told is that in this jurisdiction, Ryan can’t be available to play, which we find strange.

“Peter (Lawwell, chief executive) and the board have been pushing this since day one and we have had no clarification, if anything we have just been met with complete resistance so far.

“Ryan was devastated. They felt they followed procedures properly and he is probably guilty by association but he has had two tests with us, both negative, and has been for the last week, 10 days.

“So we have a fit and able player not being allowed to play which we find, if this scenario pans out that Kieran can play, we find that very confusing and we would want answers.

“Our preparations have been without Ryan. It would probably be folly to change that now but we would like to have him available for the squad if possible and what we are asking is, if it is OK for one, why is it not okay for the other?

“And I think our supporters would like to know that as well.”

A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “Our national guidance in Scotland is clear – if you are identified as a close contact of someone who has tested positive for coronavirus (Covid-19), you will be asked to self-isolate immediately for 14 days.”

St Johnstone v Celtic – Scottish Premiership – McDiarmid Park

Celtic’s Odsonne Edouard (left)  will be assessed ahead of Old Firm game (Andrew Milligan/PA)

While Nir Bitton and Hatem Elhamed are missing after testing positive for Covid-19 while on international duty with Israel, Edouard has returned following his period of self-isolation

Lennon said: “He (Edouard) will be assessed today – we are going through that procedure at the minute, so we will know more later on this afternoon.

“He has been a bit tired and isolated but we will through the tests and we will see how he is.”

Lennon believes it will be “very strange” to have no fans inside Celtic Park for an Old Firm derby but is looking to extend an eight-game unbeaten run in all competitions, while a win would take the champions above Rangers by two points having played a game fewer.

He added: “We are at home and it is important we consolidate our home form.

Celtic v Rangers – Ladbrokes Scottish Premiership – Celtic Park

Celtic and Rangers ready to meet for the first time this season at Parkhead (Jeff Holmes/PA)

“I think it will be physical and fast, like any other derby, but I think it is sprinkled with a lot of quality players.

“We are in brilliant form, we have won our last eight games, scored a lot of goals. We are looking forward to it.”

With fears that fans could travel, some of them afar, to watch the game in pubs and clubs, Lennon offered his advice to Celtic fans.

He said: “Enjoy the game at home. Stay with your family, don’t put yourself or anyone else in jeopardy. Please don’t travel.

“Going out, going to other places, different towns, it is not ideal, not acceptable.”