Neil Lennon: Celtic manager expects an Old Firm derby 'we've never seen before' due to absence of fans

Watch Celtic vs Rangers in the Scottish Premiership live on Sky Sports Football from 11.30am on Saturday; kick-off 12.30pm

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Neil Lennon could be without four players for Saturday's derby with Rangers after Celtic were hit hard by Covid-19 during the international break

Neil Lennon expects the first Old Firm fixture of the Scottish Premiership season to be "a derby we've never seen before" due to the absence of supporters.

Celtic trail Glasgow rivals Rangers by one point in the table ahead of the match at Celtic Park, live on Sky Sports, with Steven Gerrard's side targeting back-to-back derby wins for the first time since 2009.

The fixture is renowned for its fervent atmosphere and Lennon is aware his players will have to adapt if they are to maintain their unbeaten start to the season.

"The electricity, atmosphere, rawness, noise, colour - all of that's going to be missing," Lennon told Sky Sports News.

Scott Brown and Alfredo Morelos in action 1:30
Darren Fletcher says the lack of fans will have a big impact on the match

"We'll just have to adapt to it as best we can. We've played reasonably well over the past couple of months and are on a good run of wins.

"It's very difficult for this generation of players and what they're going through without supporters, to get the best out of themselves. We've adapted as well as anybody."

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Steven Gerrard 1:39
Former Rangers and Celtic defender Steven Pressley is predicting a Rangers win

Celtic can move above Rangers at the top of the Scottish Premiership with victory on Saturday but Lennon says the result will have no bearing on where the title goes.

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"It's way too early," said the Northern Irishman. "We had this conversation after winning at Ibrox last year and after we lost at Celtic Park in December. It didn't pan out the way people predicted.

"We're on a good run and have got to maintain that consistency. I want to get all my players back fit because we've got a real heavy block of games coming up."

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Former Celtic midfielder Stiliyan Petrov has tipped the Hoops to edge this weekend's game

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Lennon would rather his players did not go away on international duty during the coronavirus pandemic after three players tested positive while with their countries and another was forced to self-isolate.

Israel pair Hatem Elhamed and Nir Bitton will miss Saturday's Glasgow derby against Rangers, after returning positive tests, with Ryan Christie unavailable after he was deemed to be a contact of former Hoops team-mate Stuart Armstrong while on Scotland duty.

Odsonne Edouard also tested positive while with France U21s. He is due to return to Glasgow on Friday, making him a doubt for the Rangers game.

"It's very difficult when you've got players travelling all around the world, going from one bio bubble to another. They become vulnerable and open to [the virus]," Lennon said.

"We have worked so hard to protect them from that, at a lot of expense to the club themselves.

"It can't go on this way because we're losing too many players, not just us but a lot of other clubs as well, and even countries.

"Look at the Czech Republic, they had to completely change their squad, which totally dilutes the quality and integrity of the competition."

preview image 4:14
Highlights from the UEFA Nations League Group B2 match between Scotland and the Czech Republic

While Lennon admits he would prefer players not to travel, he would never try to stop them representing their countries.

"That's something I would never want to do to a player," said Lennon. "These are unprecedented times and we are in a very difficult situation. Even at home it looks like the virus seems to be ramping itself up again.

"Ideally we don't want them to travel but we're not going to point the finger and say, 'you can't go'. We want them to represent their country and do well, but not totally at our expense."

Watch Celtic vs Rangers on Saturday from 11.30 on Sky Sports Football and Sky Sports Main Event.

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