Celtic need to find a way to get Neil Lennon out of their head
Brendan Rodgers vs Neil Lennon has been one of the standout managerial battles in the last year or so.
Since Lennon brought Hibs up from the Championship, the Easter Road side have impressed many in Scotland with their blistering football. So much so that they actually sit second in the table, showing just how much progress Lennon has made.
It was expected last season that Celtic would blow Hibs away in their encounters last season. After all the then six-in-a-row Premiership champions were still sweeping all before them. Hibs, meanwhile, were simply the promoted side.
Yet, in their first meeting at Celtic Park, the Hoops were nearly outplayed and only just salvaged a 2-2 draw. The likes of John McGinn and Dylan McGeouch thrived against Scott Brown and Olivier Ntcham. Their energy was just too much for the Hoops midfield to handle.
In the end, it cost Celtic two valuable points at the time, and was a message from Lennon that his side weren’t going to be pushovers.
The Hibs affect
Just one month later, and Hibs were at it again in the Betfred Cup semi-final. Whilst Celtic were more dominant this time around, Lennon’s men recovered from 2-0 down to level at 2-2. Fortunately, Moussa Dembele popped up and showed his quality to seal a final berth.
Any thoughts about the Parkhead clash being a one-off, however, were curtailed when Hibs held Celtic to a 2-2 draw at Easter Road in December 2017. Again, Celtic held a two-goal lead before blowing it in the final 10 minutes. Hibs were now in the Parkhead side’s head.
It all culminated in a day to forget when Celtic had the chance to win the title at Easter Road last April. It was supposed to he the party before Celtic rubbed it in Rangers’ faces the next week.
Instead? Celtic were once again overpowered through Hibs’ sheer enthusiasm and lose the game 2-1. Once again, the midfield were pretty much bullied out of the game in a horrific show of weakness from the Hoops.
This defeat came after Celtic only just managed to see off their green and white foes in a 1-0 win at Celtic Park. Hibs missed a host of sitters in that contest, and will wonder how they succumbed to Celtic on that occasion.
From the five matches Celtic faced against Hibs, the Hoops won only two of them. Neither were at Easter Road whilst just one was at Parkhead.
What’s more, Hibs don’t seem to have weakened any either. Despite McGinn and McGeouch leaving, the likes of Emerson Hyndman and Stevie Mallan have come in and replaced them. Hibs still play with that swashbuckling tempo that’s gained them so many admirers.
Next weekend has to be the moment Celtic rise up and finally overpower the Leith side. Coming on the back of dismantling St Johnstone, confidence has to be high in the Parkhead camp.
It’s finally time that they got Lennon and his Hibs troops out of Celtic’s heads.