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Lennon will rest players in preparation for qualifiers if title can be wrapped up

NEIL LENNON has urged Celtic to try to clinch the Clydesdale Bank Premier League title as quickly as possible so that some players can be rested in preparation for next summer's Champions League qualifiers.

Neil Lennon does not expect any leeway with Celtic's fixture schedule
Neil Lennon does not expect any leeway with Celtic's fixture schedule

Scotland will have only one representative in next season's tournament and they will face three rounds of qualifying to reach the group phase. The Parkhead manager is confident his side will claim that solitary slot but knows the quicker the championship is sealed, the sooner he can start looking ahead to the next European campaign.

Lennon said: "We've got three qualifiers next season and there are no guarantees we'll get through them. I think they're the most difficult games of the lot.

"Looking at it, we might have to stagger the season a little bit in terms of maybe trying to give [the players] a break even this season and bring them back early for the qualification games in early July or mid-July. We'll be looking to maybe bring them back mid to late June, which almost feels like they've been [playing] for 12 months. It's a scenario we're thinking about, maybe giving them time off at the end of the season. Mind you, if we get into the Scottish Cup final we'd have to bring them back. But it's a scenario we're looking at."

Celtic may face matches away to both Ross County and Inverness Caledonian Thistle ahead of this season's Champions League last-16 games in February and March, after sealing their place in the knockout stages by beating Spartak Moscow in midweek.

Lennon admitted he would be grateful for any assistance from the SPL but had little expectation. "I would welcome it for sure but I know there would be a few dissenting voices because other teams in the past probably felt they didn't get the same sort of help," he said.

"It's a difficult domestic campaign with the amount of games that you play, but if you're in Germany you're travelling maybe 500 to 600 miles for games. It would be great if the SPL would give us an extra day but it's something I wouldn't lose any sleep over.

"We used basically a shadow team for the Arbroath [Scottish Cup tie] to give the guys the weekend to prepare and it was very beneficial because there was a freshness about them and they finished the Spartak game quite well.

"The other way to look at it is if you've only got two days to recover from a Champions League game your form does dip. That has been proven with research, so to have an extra day would be great but I'm not expecting any favours and I'm not asking for them."

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