Neil Lennon has hinted that Celtic’s international stars won’t be available for the first pre-season game of the season.
Celtic started their pre-season training camp minus several internationalists on Monday. The likes of Scott Bain, James Forrest, Callum McGregor, and Lewis Morgan were all away with Scotland under two weeks ago. They faced both Cyprus and Belgium before heading out on their end-of-season break. Nir Bitton was also away with Israel.
As expected, they didn’t return for the pre-season return date of 17th June having just played a week previously. It’s hardly much of a break for the internationalists either. Celtic will surely, therefore, look to give them more holidays as the season progresses and opportunities to do so arise.
But whilst Lennon didn’t actually confirm a date for their official return to pre-season training, he did hint the second pre-season game against Wiener Neustadt is being targeted. Speaking to Celtic TV, Lennon said the following:
“With the three friendlies, that will be plenty of football to get them up to speed for the opening games. Like I say already, they’re in decent condition, and I suppose by the time the games come around they’ll all be looking forward to playing.
“Then it’s a case of staggering the international boys back into the framework of the second and third games where they get some much-needed game-time.”
Champions League qualifiers can help Celtic
The four Champions League qualifiers Celtic have to play nowadays is much-maligned. Many feel that as the current Champions of Scotland and the rich history the club has, we shouldn’t have to take part in so many qualification matches.
But these games could also help the Bhoys ahead of a huge domestic season. Whilst they’re not friendlies by any stretch of the imagination, games against the likes of Sarajevo and then Nomme Kalju/Shkendija can act as good prep for the new campaign.
Many would expect Celtic to roll over both of their opponents in qualifying rounds one and two. If they fail to do so, it would be an absolute catastrophe. But if they do their jobs, these games could do wonders for getting the players up to speed before the Premiership campaign kicks off on August 3rd.
Not much prep time needed for some
The likes of McGregor, Forrest, and Bain likely won’t even need much prep either given their lack of time off. So when they do return, they likely won’t need as much time to get ready for the new season as the rest of the squad.
It will also be interesting to see what Lennon does with Olivier Ntcham too. He’s currently away with the France under-21 squad at the under-21 European Championships. If France go all the way, he’ll finish up in Italy on June 30th. That would mean he likely wouldn’t play in any of Celtic’s three pre-season games. If Lennon decides to give him substantial time off, he could also miss the Sarajevo first-leg too.
So that’s something Lennon will likely be keeping an eye on. But for the rest of the internationalists, it looks like they’ll be back for the Wiener Neustadt clash on June 29th