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Brendan Rodgers: Hibs’ Neil Lennon backs Celtic to bounce back

Neil Lennon and Brendan Rodgers have both experienced difficult starts at Celtic

Former Celtic manager Neil Lennon expects Brendan Rodgers’ current side to recover from their poor start to the season – just as his own did in 2012.

Sunday’s 2-1 defeat by Kilmarnock leaves Celtic in sixth place with 10 points from six games.

Lennon understands the hysteria given his own worst start – 11 points from six – during his spell in charge.

“It’s the norm,” the Hibernian head coach said. “It wasn’t a great result for them yesterday, but it happens.”

Under Lennon, who had a seven-year spell as a Celtic player and four as manager, they recovered from that early blip to win the Scottish Premier League in 2013.

“I have seen this before,” he said. “I’ve seen it over the years under managers I played under.

“I have been in this position myself as Celtic manager. Other managers have and Rangers managers have as well.

“Once they hit the ground running, they are going to be a hard team to stop.”

Craig Levein’s Hearts currently lead the Scottish Premiership having made a host of signings this summer, while Rangers are five points behind having invested heavily in the playing squad under new manager Steven Gerrard.

“I think, with the investment that Rangers have put into the squad and the improvement in other clubs, it was always likely that it would be far more competitive league this year than it has been for quite a while,” Lennon said ahead of Tuesday’s Scottish League Cup quarter-final at home to Aberdeen.

“I still think Celtic will win the league. I think they have the strength in depth and the quality of player.

“Just like everybody else, they are going through a little bit of a blip.”

Hibs finished fourth last season, challenging Aberdeen and Rangers, for the runners-up spot, but Lennon thinks his side’s inconsistency rules out a title challenge of their own.

“I would like to think that we would be there or thereabouts,” he said. “But actually challenging for the title? We are still looking to emulate what we did last year and just get in and around it.”

‘Big clubs will get closer to Celtic’

Celtic next travel to face St Johnstone in their quarter-final on Wednesday and Saints manager Tommy Wright thinks Rodgers was just being honest when he admitted that his club’s fans should be concerned by their start to the season.

“He’s just telling the truth,” he said. “I think, when they’ve been so good and right at the very top, every little drop is picked on and jumped all over, but they will still see themselves as favourites to win the league.

“It’s early days. I think it’s great for the league that there’s a different team at the top and everyone’s talking about there now being a genuine title race.

“I keep saying it – the league is getting stronger. Everybody else is strengthening, we’ve strengthened, but the big five in particular have got the resources.

“One thing Celtic have got is the experience of winning titles. They maybe haven’t had this type of pressure, but I’m sure there’s enough in that squad and enough depth to deal with it.”

‘Old Firm remain favourites’

Celtic next entertain Aberdeen in the league and Dons manager Derek McInnes thinks it is too early in the season to make any conclusions about a title challenge.

“Other than Hearts, it’s very congested there,” he said. “What you are seeing is teams are stronger right across the board.

“Wins will be harder to come by for everyone, including for the Old Firm.

“The Old Firm will be favourites for the title because of what they’re allowed to spend. We just want to make sure we’re as competitive as we’ve always been and hopefully we can be amongst it.”

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