THE final Old Firm match of the season at Ibrox tomorrow may well be meaningless after Celtic wrapped up their eighth straight Scottish title last weekend.

Yet, the encounter between the age-old adversaries promises to be, due to the trouble that flared at the end of their last meeting at Parkhead at the end of March and the ill-feeling which is sure to linger as a result, to be every bit as fiercely contested as a final day title decider.

Neil Lennon, who has sampled the fixture as both a player and a manager over the years, has no concerns about the visitors’ ability to cope with either the forbidding atmosphere the game will be played out in or the roughhouse treatment they are sure to receive from their hosts.

He has been impressed with coolness under pressure of individuals like Scott Bain, Scott Brown, James Forrest, Callum McGregor and Kieran Tierney since taking over from Brendan Rodgers on an interim basis back in February.

Indeed, he took great exception to the £7,500 fine which Celtic, along with their sparring partners, were hit with at an SFA disciplinary hearing last month following their involvement in the fracas.

The Northern Irishman believes that Rangers, whose players have received 12 red cards in all competitions during the 2018/19 campaign, are fully deserving of their reputation for being ill-disciplined.

However, he is adamant the conduct of his men, who hope to complete a third consecutive treble by beating Hearts in the William Hill Scottish Cup final later this month, has been exemplary and expects them to maintain their composure in their penultimate league match.

“They have got to play and act like champions accordingly and that will be drilled home to them,” said Lennon. “I want them to play a good game and play it the right way in terms of their discipline.

“It’s been an issue for the opposition all season. Yet we get tarred with the same brush after the last game when I think my players acted very, very well. They are the ones with the red cards and the suspensions.

“Broony was being sucked into that bracket, but, thankfully, the right decision was made at the tribunal. We take offence at being tarred with the same brush at times. In terms of the sanctions, you’d have to ask the SFA, it was their decision.

“It’s not my problem that they have a huge disciplinary problem and if it manifests itself again on Sunday then we will try to take advantage. My players’ conduct has been impeccable. I have every confidence in the discipline of the team.

“The mentality of this team has been fantastic. Yes, they’ve had a few bumps along the way and people can’t wait to chip at them. But their consistency has been remarkable, to the point where they are eight trophies down with the opportunity to win nine out of nine. It’s incredible.”

Lennon was never, due to the uncompromising way he approached games, far from controversy when he played for Celtic against Rangers. Brown, his captain and first choice central midfielder, is very much in the same mould.

The 33-year-old is sure to be singled out by the home support, who will once again greatly outnumber the away fans, after he celebrated directly in front of them at the end of the last Old Firm game. But his manager feels this particular contest always brings out the very best in his skipper.

“He’s a big game player,” he said. “He’s been a big game player for 12 years here. He’s a big personality. He takes the hits, he gets up and enjoys it and he thrives in the atmosphere. That’s what you want from your captain. He leads by example.

“Maybe 10 years ago he played with a chip on his shoulder. He was young, he was brash. But over the last seven or eight years he’s matured into a top class midfielder and a top class captain. He knows how to play the game.”

The match this weekend comes after a tumultuous period for Celtic on and off the park. They have lost and laid to rest two of their greatest sons in Billy McNeill and Stevie Chalmers. But they have also completed the second leg of another potential clean sweep of domestic trophies.

Lennon has represented the Parkhead club throughout it all, but admitted it had, at times, been hard to deal with the emotions. Winning a game of football, then, will seem straightforward in comparison.

“It’s difficult to find a balance between the emotional side of things and the professional side of things,” he said.

“It’s been a tough 10 days, losing Billy and then Stevie, Billy in particular because of what he meant to the supporters and the club. But also Stevie because he scored the goal. To lose two Lions in ten days, two guys who were a huge part of the fabric of the club, was difficult.

“On top of that we had to go and win the championship and I think the players handled it very well. You could see what it meant to the players, getting over the line. It was a great achievement which I think gets downplayed a bit because people get used to it, they kind of expect it.

“It’s a great achievement and we’ve had a great week. It’s been more relaxed because the tension has been lifted. But it’s a derby so you have to expect the opposition aren’t going to let you play with freedom.”

Beating Rangers will lead to calls for Lennon to be handed the Celtic manager’s job on a full-time basis. Losing it, meanwhile, will result in appeals for somebody else to get the job. The 47-year-old will field his strongest possible starting line-up despite the fact that key personnel need a rest and the cup final is looming. But he is adamant the outcome holds no personal significance for him.

“I’ve been hearing this all the time – you’ve got to win the first Rangers game, you’ve got to win the semi-final, you’ve got to win the league, blah, blah, blah,” he said. “It will have no bearing on my future.”