Lennon's challenge to Celtic fringe stars

CELTIC'S shock Scottish Cup exit is set to bring forward plans to shake up the Hoops' starting XI.

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Neil Lennon could hand squad players a chance to prove their worth as the season peters out
Neil Lennon could hand squad players a chance to prove their worth as the season peters out

Manager Neil Lennon believes there are players waiting in the wings who are due their chance to show they are ready to compete for a place.

And, with the SPFL Premiership title almost in the bag, and the double of league and cup now gone, their moment could be about to arrive.

Lennon has, in the main, stuck with his strongest available line up throughout the campaign.

But when asked if he would now consider leaving out some of the men who have carried the bulk of the burden for the past six months he replied: "It's something we will now think about.

"There are players here who deserve an opportunity, and we will have to take a look at that as the weeks and months go on."

Lennon is already looking towards the Champions League qualifiers in July.

Last year, to counter a very short close season, he began giving players short recovery breaks before bringing everyone back for the Scottish Cup final.

This time around, there is no such climax in May for the Hoops, but the title could be won by the end of next month.

With Efe Ambrose and Emilio Izaguirre heading to the World Cup Finals in Brazil with Nigeria and Honduras respectively, and Fraser Forster also hoping to be there with England, Lennon knows it is more important than ever to make early preparations.

Confirming Ambrose and Izaguirre could be two of the first given time off, Lennon explained: "It seemed to work out okay for us last year, giving players early breaks.

"They are two who may miss the Champions League qualifiers, so that is something we will have to consider."

Kris Commons, so often the catalyst for winning performances this season, is another who might be given the chance to recharge his batteries even earlier.

Lennon admitted: "The last couple of performances Kris has looked a little bit flat, and maybe we need to look at that."

Two of the players sure to get more game time are new signings, Leigh Griffiths and Stefan Johansen.

The striker made his debut as a sub in Saturday's defeat, and is expected to have gained some match sharpness.

The Norwegian was involved in the errors which led to Aberdeen's winner, but Lennon noted Johansen never gave up. The manager said: "When players come in, you can be up there one week, and then the next...

"That's where I want my experienced players to rally round, and our big players didn't turn up on Saturday."


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