Celtic manager Neil Lennon says his players are like "caged animals" as they wait for the green light to return to training amid the coronavirus pandemic.

The Scottish Premiership has been suspended until further notice following the outbreak, with Celtic holding a 13-point lead over arch rivals Rangers at the summit.

Lennon admits some of his players might be struggling during the enforced absence from football and says the club are keeping a watchful eye on their mental health.

"They're like caged animals," he told BBC Sport. "These are young, fit men who're used to an almost regimented way of living. Their routine is training and playing. All of that is gone. Some of them will be cooking for themselves for the first time in their lives.

"Mentally, the change can put a strain on them. They're used to intensity and suddenly it's not there. We're very aware of the mental [health] side of this. We all need to keep our wellbeing in order.

"As long as I can get out and get some exercise for my own peace of mind then I'm fine. The silence is deafening when you go out for a walk. The place is deserted. We just have to ride it out as best we can. We're all in the same boat."

While understandably missing football, Lennon believes the break could be used as an opportunity for the game to find better ways of connecting with local communities when it returns.

"I'm really missing football," he added. "I'm missing the players, the staff, the games, the colour, the noise, but it's no bad thing to take a moment and appreciate what you've got.

"I think football will mean a lot more to a lot of people when it returns. What I'm seeing now is us going back to our roots, going back to community life with people looking out for each other and maybe we'd gone away from that.

"What's happening is tragic but everybody is pulling together to try to get through it and that's brilliant."

Rangers cut the gap to leaders Celtic down to two points in the Scottish Premiership thanks to a 2-1 victory at their Old Firm rivals on Sunday, despite another red card for Alfredo Morelos.

Nikola Katic's 56th-minute header secured Rangers their first league triumph at Celtic Park in 10 attempts, raising hopes for Steven Gerrard's squad they may finally be able to end Celtic's long run of dominance in the top flight.

While the reigning champions remain at the summit, their Glasgow neighbours have a game in hand as they bid to lift the title for the first time since 2010-11.

The only setback for Gerrard was the late dismissal of Morelos, who was sent off for the seventh time in his Rangers career after picking up a second booking for diving during added time.

Both teams had scored during a crazy nine-minute spell in the first half that saw a missed penalty, a Rangers opener and a fortuitous equaliser from a familiar scorer in these fixtures.

The visitors were on top before Katic presented Celtic the chance to take the lead by holding on to Christopher Jullien's shirt at a corner, the infringement spotted by referee Kevin Clancy.

However, Allan McGregor helped out his team-mate by turning away Ryan Christie's spot kick - and Rangers went ahead soon after when Ryan Kent swept in Borna Barisic's square pass with his left foot.

Celtic had struggled in attack but benefited from a fortunate break to draw level, Callum McGregor's shot going in off Odsonne Edouard, with the deflection - seemingly off an arm - wrongfooting goalkeeper McGregor.

Yet Rangers recovered from the unfortunate setback to retake the lead early in the second half, Barisic again the provider as his corner picked out the run of fellow Croatian Katic.

Steven Davis preserved the visitors' narrow advantage when he headed off the line from Jullien for a second time in the contest, while Morelos - still yet to score against Celtic - received his marching orders too late for the hosts to capitalise on the man advantage.

Celtic manager Neil Lennon relished the opportunity to give European experience to teenagers Karamoko Dembele and Scott Robertson in Thursday's defeat to Cluj.

Dembele, 16, came on as a 72nd-minute substitute in the 2-0 Europa League loss in Romania and became the youngest player to represent Celtic in continental competition.

Debutant Robertson started the match and played the full 90 minutes, with the 18-year-old coming in as one of nine changes to the side that beat Rangers in Sunday's Scottish League Cup final.

Celtic were already assured of top spot in Group E but saw a 12-game winning run in all competitions ended by goals from Andrei Burca and Damjan Djokovic.

"We think very highly of him," Lennon told Celtic TV of Dembele. "I wanted to give him some experience.

"I want to keep him around the team squad because we think he's a real talent. I wanted to give him a little bit of experience at this level.

"Scott Robertson also had a terrific debut. His performance delighted me. I thought it was a superb debut for an 18-year-old to come in and play in that environment so maturely and with a lot of composure."

Explaining his team selection, Lennon added: "The campaign was done and dusted and we’ve already won a trophy so I didn’t want to run the risk of injuries. 

"I wanted to give others some experience and some will need that 90 minutes for the games coming up.

"We're disappointed to lose the game but in the main very pleased with what I got out of it. Some of my players needed the games and needed the 90 minutes.

"Overall, we’ve had an amazing campaign and I'm happy to have used the squad tonight because we have so many important domestic games coming up."

Celtic goalkeeper Fraser Forster says experiences like Sunday's Scottish League Cup triumph are the reason he returned to the club.

Forster enjoyed four years at Celtic between 2010 and 2014 before joining Premier League side Southampton.

He returned north of the border on loan in August, however, and put in an inspired display at Hampden Park as Celtic overcame bitter rivals Rangers 1-0 to register a 10th consecutive domestic trophy.

The 31-year-old produced a string of saves to frustrate Steven Gerrard's side – the pick of which was a penalty stop from Alfredo Morelos just minutes after Christopher Jullien had put Celtic ahead.

Forster told BBC Scotland: "As long as you win, that's all that matters. We really had to fight and grind it out.

"It was just one of them days; it went my way today. I'm buzzing. There's been days when it's not gone my way, today it has. I can't say how much it means to me.

"I didn't really think about the penalty to be honest. I picked the way it went. I'll take it. That's why I came back, to play in games like this, to win silverware, to play European football."

Celtic boss Neil Lennon hailed the contribution of his keeper and says he is in awe of his side's mentality.

"Fraser Forster was outstanding," he said. "He made some unbelievable saves, world-class saves.

"We didn't get going in the first half, but second half we were better. The mentality of the team is amazing. They've won 10 [domestic trophies] in a row – I don't know how they do it.

"This team just doesn't know when it's beaten. They still dig it out and dig it out. They're amazing.

"We are talking 10 major trophies now in a row. We don't want to give anything up. We weren't great today but we still won - and that's what cup football is all about."

Celtic survived the dismissal of Jeremie Frimpong to claim a 10th consecutive domestic trophy with a 1-0 win over bitter rivals Rangers in the Scottish League Cup final at Hampden Park.

Neil Lennon's side were second best for long periods but a combination of Christopher Jullien's 60th-minute goal and a string of fine saves from Fraser Forster ensured Steven Gerrard's wait for a first piece of silverware in his managerial career goes on.

Celtic looked like they had gift-wrapped Rangers a way back into the game just minutes after Jullien's strike, Frimpong dismissed for hauling down Alfredo Morelos inside the penalty area.

As had been the case throughout the match, however, Forster was equal to the Colombian's effort from 12 yards, making sure Celtic maintained their run of dominance in Scottish football.

Rangers had started with a spring in their step, Connor Goldson heading wide from a corner and Forster superbly pawing away Ryan Jack's swerving 25-yard drive inside the opening 15 minutes.

The Celtic goalkeeper then stood firm to repel Morelos' strike after he had raced away from Kristoffer Ajer, then denied Rangers' leading scorer again after he had been played in behind the Celtic defence.

Rangers continued to look threatening at the start of the second period, Morelos flashing agonisingly across the face of goal after being picked out at the back post.

Those misses came back to haunt Rangers on the hour mark, though, when an unmarked Jullien stole in at the back post to convert Ryan Christie's free-kick to give his side the lead.

Rangers were handed an immediate chance to restore parity with Frimpong’s foul following some slapstick defending from Celtic, but Morelos' weak spot-kick was turned away by Forster.

Substitute Michael Johnston inexplicably fired wide after being played clean through, whil there was still time for one final Morelos miss - the forward dragging narrowly wide deep into stoppage time, as Celtic held on for yet another win in a major final.

Neil Lennon took aim at sceptics who he believes had written off Celtic prior to Sunday's clinical 2-0 victory over Rangers at Ibrox.

The Scottish champions produced a faultless performance in the Old Firm derby to move three points clear of their Glasgow rivals in first place.

Odsonne Edouard punished Connor Goldson's cheap turnover to open the scoring in the first half before Jonny Hayes sealed the victory in stoppage time.

Lennon was unhappy with criticism levelled at his side following last month's Champions League loss to Cluj and felt hype surrounding Rangers was unwarranted.

"We were an afterthought coming into this fixture," the Hoops boss said.

"It was all about the opposition and what they were going to do to us.

"We didn't listen to any of it. We stayed strong and played brilliantly.

"We came here to win, we came here to be strong.

"Everyone wrote us off. We were very motivated, hungry and had great belief about us.

"You can't listen to the noise surrounding the game, you have to stick to what you believe in.

"I have a great backroom team and we set our stall out to be competitive.

"We've been dominant. We're not prepared to give up our titles and neither are these players or the board."

Rangers boss Steven Gerrard felt let down by the performances of all but Jon Flanagan and took particular issue with Jordan Jones, who was shown a straight red card following a wild challenge on Moritz Bauer in added time.

"I think Jordan was maybe trying to appease the fans - that's not how you appease fans," Gerrard told Sky Sports.

"You do it by creating and scoring goals if you're a wide man, not by kicking people when the ball is 10 yards away.

"He deserves his red card, he deserves his ban and he's got everything to do now to get back in my team."

Odsonne Edouard's fifth Old Firm goal helped Celtic to a 2-0 win over Rangers and a three-point lead atop the Scottish Premiership on Sunday.

The French forward beat the offside trap and guided a cool finish under Allan McGregor in the 32nd minute to set up his side's clinical victory at Ibrox.

Substitute Jonny Hayes added a second on the counter-attack in stoppage time before Jordan Jones compounded the home side's misery by wiping out Moritz Bauer and earning himself a straight red card.

Neil Lennon's Celtic men needed a boost after being dumped out of Champions League qualifying at the hands of CFR Cluj in August - a blow softened only slightly by successfully reaching the Europa League group stage.

The surgical manner of this triumph should inspire even greater confidence that a ninth successive league title is theirs to lose.

Hatem Abd Elhamed recovered from injury to replace Kristoffer Ajer on the right side of Celtic's defence and he was at the centre of an eventful first 15 minutes.

The Israel international made a crucial last-ditch challenge to prevent Rangers striker Jermain Defoe from pulling the trigger in the early stages and then required treatment following an aerial collision with Jon Flanagan.

Chances became scarce until James Tavernier gifted possession to Michael Johnston, who drove forward and threaded Edouard through on goal for the opener.

Rangers boss Steven Gerrard turned to Alfredo Morelos on the hour, removing the largely ineffective Defoe.

Another substitute, Sheyi Ojo, had finally tested Fraser Forster moments earlier, though there was precious little else for the on-loan Hoops goalkeeper to do.

McGregor kept Rangers in the contest with a trio of good stops but, after denying Hayes once, he could not keep the winger from bundling in the rebound, three minutes before Jones' rash challenge.

Neil Lennon accused Celtic of conceding "crazy, suicidal" goals against CFR Cluj as they suffered a shock Champions League qualifying defeat.

The Scottish champions were beaten 4-3 in Glasgow on Tuesday to lose the tie 5-4 on aggregate and miss out on a play-off match against Slavia Prague.

Celtic were 1-0 down at half-time but moved 2-1 up through James Forrest and Odsonne Edouard, only for Abdel Billel Omrani to level the scores from the penalty spot.

The hosts hit back through Ryan Christie but Omrani struck again to make it 3-3 before George Tucudean made Cluj's passage to the next round secure with the last kick of the game.

Celtic manager Lennon admitted his team were not good enough in the first half and felt they threw the lead away with their poor defending.

"The goals we conceded are crazy," he told BBC Radio Scotland. "You've got to do the basics well – you've got to stop crosses, close people down, get your head on things – and it was almost as if we scored and wanted to switch off and control the game.

"In the first half, we were way too passive, way too slow with the tempo, so we gave them a bit of a razz at half-time and we got the right response going 2-1 up. But we needed that two-goal cushion. It's suicidal the goals we gave away.

"The first goal, we got a warning before that, and we still didn't stop the cross and the guy's got across for a run. If you don't do the basics defensively well enough then, at this level, you get punished.

"We've let it go. We've only ourselves to blame. We had the lead and we let it slip through our own decision-making, really."

Lennon is keen to lift his side's spirits before they now prepare for a play-off to reach the Europa League group stages.

"We've got to work with the players. We've got to raise their morale, first of all," he said.

"We're going to get a bit of criticism and that's totally par for the course. We've worked really hard to get where we are and we've basically thrown it away. We've got some good defenders but for some reason they wanted to slow the game down."

James Forrest's grabbed an equaliser as Celtic came from behind to claim a 1-1 draw in their Champions League qualifying third round match against CFR Cluj.

Neil Lennon's men fell behind after 28 minutes in Transylvania, where they came up against a physical Cluj side that proved dangerous on the break.

But Celtic recovered quickly after falling behind and Forrest's composure in front of goal helped to earn them a result that puts them in control ahead of the return fixture on Scottish soil on August 13.

The Bhoys face a trip to Motherwell in domestic action before then and Lennon will be glad to have emerged from this game with a positive result, although he will have to check on the fitness of Jozo Simunovic after he left the field with an injury.

Odsonne Edouard drove a raking shot towards goal after four minutes that Cluj goalkeeper Giedrius Arlauskis got down well to save.

Celtic were just about on top after 26 minutes when Cluj burst forward with a sweeping counter-attack and Mario Rondon slid the ball between Scott Bain's legs and into the net.

The visitors did not lose their composure, instead piecing together a neat passing move after 37 minutes that culminated in Forrest drilling a low shot in off the post.

Bain made a superb one-handed save to keep Celtic on terms when Billel Omrani struck a close-range shot early in a second half that became increasingly scrappy as Cluj grew frustrated.

Mateo Susic was fortunate to escape with only a yellow card after a scything retaliatory challenge on Scott Brown, and Celtic slowed the pace of the game down in the closing stages with Simunovic's apparent injury the only disappointment on a satisfactory night for Lennon's side.

Kieran Tierney is struggling to stay focused at Celtic amid interest from Arsenal, according to manager Neil Lennon.

Celtic have rejected two bids from Arsenal for the left-back, who has been a key figure for the Hoops in recent seasons.

Arsenal's second offer is reported to have been in the region of £25million, and although Lennon stated talks are yet to resume, he expects the saga to continue towards the end of the transfer window.

Tierney is not thought to have asked to leave the club, but Lennon acknowledged it is difficult for the 22-year-old to remain focused with his future up in the air.

"It is as we were a week ago," Lennon, speaking as he officially opened the Celtic Festival at Glasgow's Scottish Event Campus, said. "Two bids have been in, two bids have been rejected and that's where we are.

"How confident am I he'll still be a Celtic player come the end of the window? Well, you can never say never.

"That's going to rumble on. If there is interest in him then other clubs may come in or Arsenal may come again. I can't predict that.

"At the minute, he's working away in the background and it's difficult for him to keep focused because he's only human, but we're supporting him all we can."

Celtic have already signed a left-back this close season, bringing in Boli Bolingoli-Mbombo from Rapid Vienna, though Lennon suggested the Scottish champions have a further contingency plan in place should Tierney depart.

"We obviously have worked out other options if that worst-case scenario were to happen," Lennon added.

 

Celtic boss Neil Lennon has told Arsenal they will need to improve their offer for Kieran Tierney as he is "a far more rounded full-back" than Manchester United's £50million signing Aaron Wan-Bissaka.

The Gunners are reported to have made a second bid of around £25m for the Scotland international, which has been rejected.

Lennon is adamant Celtic will not be forced into a cut-price sale of any of their prized assets as they attempt to navigate a Champions League qualifying tie with Sarajevo.

He believes Tierney is a more complete player than Wan-Bissaka, who left Crystal Palace for United last month, and therefore expects offers that reflect his left-back's ability.

"We can't do anything about what clubs do in England," Lennon told a news conference.

"Fifty million for Wan-Bissaka is a lot of money and we feel that Kieran is a far more experienced and rounded full-back at this juncture in his career.

"He's an asset for us and we do have a value for the player and we rate the player very highly.

"'Disrespectful' is the wrong word but we're certainly not going to be pushed over in any negotiations and we're in a very strong position with regards to a number of our assets in the team.

"The club's valuation of Kieran has not been met and until then we don't have a discussion. He's a great player, a great talent. At 22, he's already achieved a hell of a lot and he has so much more to give to the game.

"He's our player. He's on a long-term contract. While it's a backhanded compliment for all the hard work people here have done over the years with Kieran, we don't want him to go.

"Some of the players who have left here in the last few years have gone on to do all right in the English Premier League. We think we know what we're doing in terms of developing players.

"But we don't want them in the Premier League, we want them here with us playing in the Champions League."

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