Neil Lennon: Celtic can gain psychological edge with Rangers win

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Celtic manager Neil Lennon 1:57
Celtic manager Neil Lennon says his side looking forward to Sunday's 'huge' Old Firm derby against Rangers, despite closing out a 'heavy month' of action

Celtic manager Neil Lennon says his side can gain a psychological edge by beating Rangers in Sunday's Old Firm derby to extend their lead at the top of the Scottish Premiership.

Wins for both sides on Boxing Day ensured Celtic maintained a five-point advantage, with Rangers holding a game in hand as both teams prepare for their final game before the winter break.

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Rangers have shown signs under Steven Gerrard that they could end Celtic's run of eight consecutive titles, but in recent seasons the champions' best form has come after the three-and-a-half-week interval.

"We're really looking forward to it, the supporters are looking forward to it and we know what's at stake," Lennon told Sky Sports News. "We know if we can win the game we open up a big gap between us and the rest.

Celtic boss Neil Lennon pointing on the touchline 0:32
Celtic manager Neil Lennon admits he would prefer to be on the pitch playing than on the touchline in Sunday's Old Firm derby.

"Psychologically it would be very rewarding for us but we know we have to play the game and we know we're going to have to play well.

"But we're excited and our home form has been sensational, so the players have got the bit between their teeth."

'Extra motivation'

Celtic have won both of this season's Old Firm clashes, but were extremely fortunate to emerge victorious from the Scottish League Cup final earlier this month as Rangers spurned the opportunity to deny them 10th consecutive domestic title.

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While the same could not be said of Celtic's visit to Ibrox in September - from which they emerged as deserved victors - Lennon expects the sides' most recent meeting to sharpen his players' focus.

Celtic celebrate winning the Scottish League Cup
Image: Celtic celebrate winning the Scottish League Cup

"They know that looking back on the League Cup final they probably can play better and that's an extra motivation for them as well," Lennon said of his squad.

"They've got good resilience at times when they're probably not at their best, although we were absolutely brilliant at Ibrox earlier in the season.

"So this is the first one we've had at home and we know that there's not much between the teams currently on form."

'He'll be very important on Sunday'

Odsonne Edouard  could miss the Betfred Cup final against Rangers on Sunday
Image: Odsonne Edouard has scored 11 goals in 16 Scottish Premiership games this season

One of the scorers in Celtic's Ibrox win was striker Odsonne Edouard, and Lennon is expecting the French forward, who has scored 11 goals in 16 league appearances this season, to play a key role once more at Celtic Park.

"He's playing brilliantly," Lennon said.

"He's a number nine, he's 21 - you forget how young he is sometimes when you see the performances he's putting in and he takes on that responsibility brilliantly.

"We've got players on form and scoring the volume of goals… and that really, really pleases me, but Odsonne is a special talent and he's a big-game player, so obviously he'll be very important on Sunday."

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