Hibs win ‘annoys’ Lennon

Neil Lennon was both delighted and annoyed after his Hibernian team defeated Celtic 2-0 at Easter Road on Sunday.

The Edinburgh side have allowed a good start to the season slip way with a poor couple of months, seeing them drop to eighth in the Scottish Premiership table.

The home side made the perfect start when Vykintas Slivka struck after 46 seconds with a cool finish inside the box.

Celtic were poor in the opening half and Florian Kamberi finished a superb second-half counter attack with an emphatic finish to give Hibs the daylight they required, making it back-to-back home league wins over Brendan Rodgers' side.

Lennon was delighted to see off his old team, but also somewhat frustrated that his team haven't matched that level of performance recently.

"I'm delighted, considering the circumstances and the lack of depth we had in the squad, it's a remarkable performance really," the Hibs boss told Sky Sports.

"It annoy me, when I consider some of the games we have played in the last couple of months, and then we go and produce a performance like that. Two weeks ago against Kilmarnock we were pathetic and then today we beat the champions, and we deserved to beat them as well."

Hibs host Rangers in Leith in midweek and Lennon is challenging his players to show the same form against Steven Gerrard's outfit.

"We've got another big game now on Wednesday night, we're not jumping through hoops at the minute," he added.

"We're starting to look like the team we can be again. But you can't save your performances for the big games. You've got to do it week in, week out. It gets us back in the mix now for top-six, which pleases me going into the New Year.

"We've got to build on the last two performances, because they've been excellent."

Hibs are 5/2 to beat Rangers on Wednesday. The Light Blues are 1/1 with the draw priced at 13/5.

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Lennon looks at the positives

Hibernian boss Neil Lennon admits that it would be unwise to be too gung-ho when his team welcome Celtic to Easter Road on Sunday.

Hibs are eighth in the Scottish Premiership table heading into the match while Celtic are two points clear of second-placed Rangers and have qualified for the last 32 of the Europa League.

Lennon's team lost 4-2 at Celtic Park in October and the Hibs boss is keen to adopt a more cautious approach against the Glasgow giants this weekend.

Hibs have a lengthy injury list, but former Bhoys boss Lennon said: "We're a little bit bare in terms of numbers and it is a formidable task. Celtic have done well to qualify from their Europa League group and it will have given them a huge boost.

"But we're not going into it negatively. We scored two goals at Celtic Park and not too many other teams do that. We know we're capable of scoring. So are they and their mentality is very good.

"You can't go too gung-ho. Celtic were excellent in the first half against us at Celtic Park. It could have been more than 2-0 at half-time so you do have to be mindful of that but we know we're capable of causing them problems."

Hibs are 5/1 to win Sunday's match while Celtic are currently available at 1/12 to win the Scottish Premiership title once again this season.

Clarke cautious despite top spot

Steve Clarke has played down the importance of his Kilmarnock side having taken top spot in the Scottish Premiership by virtue of a 2-0 win over Livingston.

Greg Stewart scored both goals as Killie took the honours at Rugby Park on Wednesday evening, which meant that they took over at the top as both Celtic and Rangers slipped up.

However, Clarke refused to get carried away by such a lofty position, especially with a meeting with Celtic next on the agenda on Saturday.

He told reporters after the win over Livi: "Listen, it's nice for the supporters – they'll have enjoyed the night and looking at the league table, but for us it's just another three points.

"(The players will) look at the table and realise that if you work hard and are a good group of players you'll pick up points in this league.

"And if you pick up enough points then sometimes you get quite close to the summit, but there's nobody getting carried away. We've got an awful lot of work to do.

"At the end of the season we can tally up the points and see who's where and decide if it's been a good season or not.

"But, in December it's difficult to do that as there are so many games to come."

Killie are 10/1 to top the Scottish Premiership this season if Celtic are excluded, with the Rugby Park outfit 25/1 to lift the Scottish FA Cup, having last done so in 1997.

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Rested Celtic ready for final

Brendan Rodgers is unsure whether to risk Scott Brown in Celtic's League Cup final against Aberdeen at Hampden Park on Sunday.

Brown came on as a late substitute on Thursday as the Scottish champions edged to a 1-0 Europa League victory against Rosenborg in Norway.

However, as Celtic have a hectic schedule in December, Rodgers is keen to use Brown sparingly.

The former Liverpool boss said: "Scott is an important player but we'll always pick the team to try and win. It's a busy month for us and a busy period, so he'll feature at some point.

"It was nice for him to come in and help us to close out the Rosenborg game, which he did really well. It's good to see him back. He's an important player for us but he has a brain. He's not silly."

Celtic extended their stay in Trondheim after Thursday's match in a bid to be fully rested before the cup final.

Rodgers added: "One of the key things is sleep when you are recovering.

"If we'd gone back on Thursday night it would have been the early hours of Friday morning and the players would then have had to travel back to their homes. They might not have got back until about 3am."

Rodgers' team have completed the domestic treble in each of the last two campaigns and the Bhoys are 1/7 to beat Aberdeen and secure their seventh successive domestic trophy. The Dons are available at 9/2 to lift the trophy.

Rodgers hails triumphant Celtic

Brendan Rodgers says Celtic's 2-1 win over RB Leipzig in the Europa League was their best European performance since he took charge.

The Bhoys welcomed the German outfit to Celtic Park needing a win to stay in the fight for qualification from Group B having lost the reverse fixture to the Bundesliga side a fortnight ago.

They duly delivered the three points needed to stay in the hunt for a last-32 spot, Kieran Tierney and Odsonne Edouard finding the back of the net on another special European night for the Hoops.

With RB Leipzig having been on a 10-match unbeaten run coming into the clash, Rodgers felt it was their best performance on home soil during his two-year tenure.

"Tonight was a great step forward for these players because, at 1-1, when Leipzig didn't deserve to be level in the game, they responded straight away and had that belief to play forward and get that fantastic winning goal," Rodgers said.

"This was a pressure game that we had to win, but you see the positivity of the team.

"We showed no fear, had plenty of aggression and brought our identity to the game."

Rodgers' men are now level on points with RB Leipzig but remain third in the group due to the German's having the advantage in the head-to-head record with Celtic.

The Hoops travel to Norway in their next Europa League match to face a Rosenborg side who have lost four out for matches thus far.

Before then, the reigning Scottish Premiership champions face Livingston in the league.

Celtic are 1/5 to win that clash, with Livingston 12/1 and the draw 11/2.

Rodgers seeks home comforts

Brendan Rodgers accepts that it will be difficult for his Celtic team to get their Europa League campaign back on track by beating RB Leipzig.

After three Group B games Celtic are three points behind second-placed Leipzig and six adrift of Salzburg.

Rodgers' side slumped to a 2-0 loss against the Bundesliga outfit in Germany last month and Leipzig are 9/2 to beat the Bhoys by a two-goal margin in Glasgow on Thursday.

Former Liverpool boss Rodgers said: "We know it's a tough game for us but we love playing at Celtic Park.

"If we are to have any opportunity to progress, it's a game we need to win. Not every pressure situation is a negative, though. We'll need to be at the very highest level to get a result.

"At this level the tempo is higher and quicker," he said. "We've shown that we can do that at this level. It's ensuring we have that consistency. Hopefully from there, we can create a platform to get a result."

After enduring a difficult spell, Celtic have hit top form recently and have scored 23 goals in their last five domestic games.

Scott Sinclair has been excellent in the last few matches and the former Manchester City player said: "We know what we need to do to get the win. The last game gave us a clear understanding of Leipzig and we've worked on how to overcome the challenge they pose us.

"We're much stronger at home with the fans behind us and the amazing atmosphere, so hopefully we have a much better game than we had in the last match and hopefully we get the win this time."

Sinclair is 5/2 to score at any time in a match Celtic are 12/1 to win 2-1.

Rodgers rubbishes talk of Griffiths rift

Brendan Rodgers is down to the bare bones for Sunday's Betfred League Cup semi-final against Hearts at Murrayfield, the Celtic boss admits.

Captain Scott Brown is out, with Leigh Griffiths and Jozo Simunovic joining him and Rodgers ready to wait until the last minute for Tom Rogic.

Rodgers was forced to field inexperienced duo Lewis Morgan and Ryan Christie against Leipzig in the Europa League on Thursday as his side fell to a 2-0 loss in Germany.

Odsonne Edouard appears likely to be the sole striking option for Celtic ahead of their tussle with Scottish Premiership leaders Hearts.

"We want to get [Leigh Griffiths] back. He's an important member of our squad," Rodgers said.

"We've got one fit striker, a young striker, at the moment, so hopefully we can get him back fit and well very soon."

Rodgers was also keen to dismiss any suggestions of a fall-out between himself and Griffiths. The forward pulled out of the Scotland squad this month to focus on his fitness and hasn't featured since.

His manager confirmed that Griffiths is suffering from illness and is being closely monitored.

"He hasn't been well. He didn't go away with the international team, then he got injured and then he has been ill for a number of days now," he added.

"He has been connecting every day with our head physiotherapist, Tim (Williamson), and he probably gets about 20 messages a day off him, so there's no chance you're not connecting with Leigh.

"That's just the way it is sometimes with social media. There's always a bit of tittle-tattle which runs and takes its own life with these stories."

Celtic are 13/20 to beat Hearts at Murrayfield on Sunday. The Jambos, with only one league defeat in ten games and a victory over Celtic already this season, are 4/1 while the draw is 3/1.

Australian international Rogic notched a double against Hibs last week before missing the Leipzig game and Rodgers is keen to give him every chance to feature at Murrayfield.

"You see the form he's been in these last few weeks. That real aggressive aspect has returned to his game and he's linked up well with James Forrest so, if we can get him in, he's a big-game player," the Hoops boss added.

"He enjoys these occasions and normally gets the big goals in the big games so it would be good to have him available."

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Rodgers optimistic despite loss

Brendan Rodgers accepts that if Celtic are to reach the knockout stages of the Europa League they will need to beat RB Leipzig next month.

Rodgers' side produced a limp display in Germany against Leipzig on Thursday, eventually slumping to a 2-0 defeat against the Bundesliga side.

In addition, Jozo Simunovic and Cristian Gamboa picked up injuries during the match and are almost certainly out of Sunday's League Cup semi-final against Hearts at Murrayfield, which Celtic are 4/7 to win.

Celtic are scheduled to play RB Leipzig on home soil on 8th November.

Rodgers insisted: "We have seen enough to know that we can win the game at home when the players come back. I believe it's something that's well within our capabilities.

"If we are going to have any aspiration of getting through the group, it's a game first and foremost we have to win. That will be our objective.

"We've obviously lost two matches against two very good sides away from home and we've got three points on the board."

In their first two group matches, Celtic beat Rosenborg and lost to Red Bull Salzburg.

Celtic were without Scott Brown, Leigh Griffiths and Tom Rogic in Leipzig because of either injury or illness while Simunovic picked up an ankle injury during the game and Gamboa sustained a hamstring problem.

Rodgers said of the injuries: "It looks like Simunovic will be struggling. He took an awkward landing. He will be a question-mark for the weekend.

"Cristian felt a tightness. We will just have to look at it and see on Friday. When you come off with that type of injury it can be a major doubt."

Celtic are 2/9 to win the Scotland Premiership this term while Hearts can be backed at 14/1.

Gordon upbeat despite injuries

Celtic goalkeeper Craig Gordon is confident that Brendan Rodgers' injury-hit side can beat RB Leipzig in the Europa League on Thursday.

Scott Brown and Leigh Griffiths have both been ruled out of the game, while Tom Rogic did not travel with the squad and James Forrest is suspended.

Scotland international Forrest was sent off during the 3-1 defeat to Red Bull Salzburg three weeks ago. Celtic had won their first group game against Rosenborg 1-0 and have triumphed in each of their last three Scottish Premiership matches – against Aberdeen, St Johnstone and Hibernian.

Rodgers' side can be backed at 15/2 to beat RB Leipzig on Thursday and at 20/1 to win 2-1 against the German outfit, who lost 3-2 at home to Salzburg before winning 3-1 at Rosenborg. They are currently fifth in the Bundesliga.

Former Hearts and Sunderland shot-stopper Gordon said ahead of the game: "We'd like to have everybody available but that's not always going to happen at different points during the season.

"It gives the other players in the squad a good opportunity to come in and show what they can do on one of the biggest stages in European football.

"As players we're fully focused on this game and finishing the group as strongly as we can. The most important one is the next one and that's what we're looking forward to.

"We know it's going to be a very difficult game. We’ve watc'ed videos and know what kind of threat we'll come up against. It's going to be difficult."

Naismith offers Griffiths support

Forward Steven Naismith has backed fellow striker Leigh Griffiths to enjoy a successful future with Scotland, despite having withdrawn from their latest squad.

Celtic frontman Griffths has opted to miss the Nations League game against Israel on Thursday evening and the following friendly international with Portugal, citing the need to try and work on his fitness.

And Hearts star Naismith, who is poised to win his 50th cap in Haifa, is confident that Griffiths will be back in the national team fold in the near future.

He told reporters: "Griff has been in a lot of squads where he has not played a lot of games, but he has continued to turn up.

"If anything, he is coming to a time in his career when he is reaching his peak. Why would you want to miss out on international football when you are coming into that period?

"He has worked hard and scored a few goals for Celtic, but if he has come to this conclusion for this trip then that is fair enough.

"In a year's time we might be sitting here thinking we are close to going to the Euros and Griff's a big part of that. Why would you not want to be a part of it?"

Griffiths was also given the backing of his club captain, Scoot Brown, who added: "He wants to get himself fitter and we want him back and scoring 20 or 30 goals a season.

"Once he starts playing and getting confidence and everyone gets off his back, he'll be a great player for both club and country."

Scotland are 13/8 to defeat Israel and are 6/1 to secure a 1-0 victory, with Naismith priced at 3/1 to score at any time in the game.

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