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'Celtic must balance demands of Scottish Cup Final and Champions League qualifiers'

Andy Walker - Andy Walker Posted 7th May 2013 view comments

Having already secured the SPL title, Celtic continue their build up to the Scottish Cup final later this month with a home clash against Steve Lomas' St Johnstone this Saturday lunchtime, live on Sky.

Win, lose or draw, the trophy will be presented to the players at the end of the game to kick-start another party in the east end of Glasgow.

On the face of it, it's been a successful year for Neil Lennon's men.

Lennon: Trying to rest key men ahead of Champions League qualifiers

Lennon: Trying to rest key men ahead of Champions League qualifiers

A title triumph on the back of an excellent Champions League campaign with a Scottish Cup final still to come has provided the Celtic supporters with treasured memories.

But with three Champions League qualifiers coming up in July and August to get through before entering the lucrative group stages, Lennon has to think ahead and come up with some way of ensuring his star men are as fresh as possible for those essential games that will define their season once again.

Lennon has come up with some way of ensuring his star men are as fresh as possible for those essential Champions League games that will define their season once again.

Andy Walker
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Once the title was in the bag, various players were given the all clear to take it in turns to rest as much as possible on the orders of their manager.

In my view, it's asking a lot for them to come back and make sure they're mentally and physically prepared to ensure cup success.

Clearly it's a big gamble that Neil Lennon is prepared to take given how essential Champions League football has become to Scotland's champions.

The Celtic manager returns to the dugout after serving his absurd three match ban for swearing and will be glad to get back on home soil after the last couple of results on the road.

Motherwell were comfortable winners at Fir Park two weeks ago and last weekend, Ross County held the champions to a 1-1 draw.

In the same way that winning can become a habit, poor performances at this stage of the season, with so many changes, has resulted in a disjointed Celtic taking to the field.

I don't think it's easy to suddenly tune in to the hunger, desire and determination required for winning big games.

They certainly won't find it easy against a St Johnstone side that has gathered momentum over the last few weeks and are very much in the hunt for third place.

Success

In what has been a bizarre Scottish football season on and off the park, we really shouldn't forget or dismiss the scale of success clubs like St Johnstone, Inverness Caley Thistle, Ross County and of course Motherwell are on the brink of pulling off.

Hearts, Hibs, Aberdeen & Dundee Utd are all able to offer players bigger salaries on the type of budget they can afford but must cast an envious eye on what has been achieved at clubs who can only dream of operating on a higher level.

If Steve Lomas can somehow pick up enough points to secure entry into the Europa League qualifiers by finishing third, it would be a remarkable achievement.

Under Stuart McCall, Motherwell have been a terrific example of what can be achieved with limited resources and Butcher's efforts at Caley Thistle are every bit as impressive.

Whatever happens in the last few weeks of the season, Steve Lomas has shown he can motivate players and with better recruitment in the summer on the free transfer market, I would imagine his reputation will soar with another top six finish.

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