Neil Lennon: Celtic players won't want to prioritise Aberdeen over Lazio
Celtic vs Lazio will be followed by a vital Pittodrie trip, but Neil Lennon knows he can’t go about trying to rest key players for Sunday.
The Hoops have a glamorous clash with the Serie A heavyweights coming up this week. A win and we’ll be on seven points and sitting extremely pretty at the top of the group. It’s a match that looks a lot more sexier for players than a trip to the Granite City on Sunday.
Indeed, Celtic have another huge contest just over 60-odd hours later at Aberdeen. With the Premiership title race still close at the moment, Hoops fans will be demanding another three points there.
Lennon believes fans would rather the league than anything else when it comes down to it. However, speaking in The Scotsman, he stated that his players would be raging with him if he tried to rest any of them.
“I think most fans would say no (is Lazio more important than Aberdeen?). I think they would see the league as a priority, and I get that. While you’re in it, though, you’ve got to compete and do the club’s reputation well – I think it’s good for the players’ development as well.
“If I said to some players that I was going to leave them out against Lazio because we’ve got Aberdeen on Sunday, I’d have a few expletives coming at me.
“We need to try to maximise home advantage in the group and we’ve got off to a good start with regards to the Cluj game. It was a good result and a good performance, and I’m hoping for more of the same against a quality side.”
A highly-debatable subject, but league conquers all just now
You can see why some would have European success over domestic football. After all, in Europe you’re under a bigger spotlight. More football fans from around the world see your achievements on the European stage. It’s a higher-profile environment to play in.
But domestic success has a special place in Celtic supporters’ hearts just now. It’s absolutely vital that title number nine and 10 is won. Regardless of whether it means little to the rest of Europe, it means the absolute world to the Hoops support.
Celtic fans have such a strong connection to the Premiership title just now. It would be a more debatable subject if we had already completed 10-in-a-row and had a genuine chance of making a real go of things in Europe.
However, if we beat Lazio and lose on Sunday to Aberdeen, not many will be too buzzing. Lenny would come under fire for adding to the Hibernian and Livingston displays with another poor result.
If we switched it and Lazio came to Parkhead and won, whilst we bounced back with a fine win in Pittodrie, it wouldn’t be all doom and gloom. Celtic are capable of winning any match in this Europa League group. We can afford a slip-up at some stage.
You can say the same for Scotland, but it creates a domestic picture that none of us want to see. Letting Rangers gain any ground on us is a total no-no at the moment. Lenny is quite right to agree with the fans that domestic success is more important.
However, for the players, the idea of Lazio coming to a packed Parkhead won’t see any of them wanting to be rested. Hopefully, it all results in two wins in any case. We have both the squad and manager to do just that.