THROUGH the lens of club football, both positives and negatives can be drawn from the international break.
While it’s always great to see Celtic’s first-team stars represent their respective countries, there is, of course, scope for players to pick up injuries on the road during the most important stretch of the domestic season.
Hoops boss Neil Lennon understands this more than most, but suggests this particular window serves to provide his recovering players with an extra week of respite, and allows his travelling internationalists to return with a degree of freshness and renewed perspective ahead of this Sunday’s Glasgow derby.
“The boys that went out on international duty are able to use that time to take a step back and return refocused,” said the manager in an exclusive interview with the Celtic View. “It can be quite demanding here, and it has been for the last two to three seasons, and they are human beings.
“Like I’ve said before, they’ve played in every competition, right through to the final, they played in all the domestic league games, Champions League, Europa League.
“They get very little rest in the summer too, because the qualifiers come so early. There’s bound to be an accumulative effect at some stage, and we just have to manage that as best we can. It’s worth noting the players could get injured at training, or in a game playing for us as well.
“You also don’t want to stop them from going and representing their countries, because that naturally means a lot to them and it’s a privilege for them. It’s a source of pride for them, and the boys have returned in a good psychological state and are ready to go against Rangers.”
A win against the Ibrox side at Paradise this weekend would see the Scottish champions extend their lead at the top of the Premiership to 13 points, with seven games of the campaign remaining. Regardless of form or league status, though, the manager acknowledged his desire to win – for the players, for the fans and for himself.
Extending the gap by a further three points at this stage would be a significant step towards an eighth consecutive league trophy for the Hoops, which is something Neil Lennon reckons is all the incentive he and his players need, regardless of who they face on the pitch.
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Vol 54 Issue 35