Neil Lennon: Celtic happy as Old Firm underdog but why are Rangers favourites?
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By Calum Wilson
Last Updated: 31/08/19 7:19am
Neil Lennon says Celtic are happy to play the role of underdog in Sunday's Old Firm match at Rangers, but does not understand how his side are not favourites.
The two teams face off at Ibrox this weekend, live on Sky Sports Football, having both made a perfect start to the Scottish Premiership season with three wins out of three.
Home advantage proved key in the fixture last season, with Rangers winning both league meetings at Ibrox, and bookmakers have backed Steven Gerrard's side to continue that trend.
"If the bookies think that Rangers are favourites then good. That suits me fine," said Lennon.
"I don't know why [Rangers are favourites] because our form has been fantastic. We're in goalscoring form and we're winning games convincingly.
"It's not bad being the underdog with the way we're playing at the minute. I'll take that.
"The game at Ibrox has been looming on the horizon for a few weeks. Both teams are going into the game in very good form.
"It will be high octane, noisy, colourful, competitive and difficult to predict. There may be goals in it, there may not. Form goes out the window.
"I just want us to put in a strong performance which I know the team are capable of."
'Early title talk is rubbish'
Despite Celtic and Rangers gaining early ground on the rest of the league, Lennon was adamant to shoot down any talk of Sunday's game being an early marker in the title race.
"That is just rubbish all that talk," he said. "It's our fourth game of the season, there's 34 to go after that.
"You can ask me that around February or March and we will have some sort of idea where we are in the table.
"We get too hysterical too early. Game to game, every performance gets analysed to death.
"To say it's a marker or a defining moment in the season, sorry I'm not buying into that at all."
'Lennon firm but playful'
Sky Sports News reporter Luke Shanley spoke to Lennon on Friday and says the Celtic boss "seemed in a relaxed mood" as he reflected on his side's 4-1 win in the Europa League over AIK Stockholm.
"His demeanour was firm but playful in the aftermath of a Europa League win in Sweden," Shanley said.
"He had the slight distraction of the Europa League draw to react to before setting his sights on the Rangers game.
"He shot down any thought of this game 'sending out a message' or 'setting down a marker', with another 34 games to go, Lennon is focused on the task at hand.
"The Celtic manager did however concede his team need to start much better than the last time they visited Ibrox."
Will Celtic's defence hold up?
Former Celtic striker Andy Walker believes the key to success for Lennon's side will be how they line up at the back. They have kept just two clean sheets in their last eight matches and face a Rangers team who have scored eight in their last three league games.
"On Sunday you have to look at Celtic's defensive problems to see if Rangers can capitalise," Walker said. "It is anyone's guess who Celtic will play as a back four.
"You've got this conundrum of Celtic spending £10m on two players (Christopher Jullien and Boli Bolingoli-Mbombo) and neither of them have made a major impact on the supporters. It'll be interesting to see who he (Neil Lennon) goes with.
"If Alfredo Morelos plays for Rangers you'll have a few Celtic players who will press his buttons and test his patience and discipline. All those little things like a nip, stepping on his toes or trying to provoke. He'll have to come through it.
"This season out of any season in recent memory is going to be huge. Celtic are going for nine-in-a-row and Rangers are determined to stop it. We are going to be in for a close call this season."