NEIL LENNON says something has to change after four of his players were forced into self-isolation over the international break.

Odsonne Edouard, Nir Bitton and Hatem Abd Elhamed all returned positive tests for Covid-19 when representing their countries over the last week or so, while Scotland internationalist Ryan Christie is in quarantine as a precautionary measure after team-mate Stuart Armstrong contracted the virus.

The latter three have been ruled out of the game against Rangers as a result, while there are doubts over Edouard's availability for the clash.

It leaves the Celtic boss three or four bodies short ahead of the first Old Firm derby of the season on Saturday, leading the Northern Irishman to question why international football is going ahead as usual in the midst of a global pandemic – but he stressed that he would not forbid his players from joining up with their national squads.

Speaking to Sky Sports, Lennon said: “It can’t go on the way it’s going because we’ve lost four players.

“Not just us, other clubs as well – even countries. Look at the Czech Republic in the previous round, they had to completely change the squad. It dilutes the quality and the integrity of the competition.

“It’s very difficult for me to say, ‘Look, you’re not going and playing for your country’. That’s something I would never want to do to a player but these are unprecedented times and we’re in a very, very difficult situation.

“Even at home, the virus seems to be ramping up again. Ideally, we don’t want them to travel but we’re not going to point the finger at them and tell them they can’t go.”

With Rangers one point clear of their rivals having played an additional game, some have claimed that the result from Saturday’s clash at Parkhead could end up determining where the Premiership trophy ends up come the end of the season.

Lennon, though, is having none of it. It’s still far too early in the campaign to be dishing out medals, he says, and although there will be no fans in the ground to cheer on their sides, the Celtic boss reckons there are plenty of games coming up in the near future that will set the pulses racing amongst the champions’ support.

“It’s way too early,” he replied when asked of the significance of the first Old Firm of the season. “We had this conversation after we won at Ibrox last year and then after we lost at Celtic Park in December. It didn’t pan out the way people assumed it was going to or predicted.

“We’re on a good run. We’ve got to maintain that consistency.

“I want to get all the players back fit because we’ve got a real heavy block of games coming up – great games, very exciting games for the players to really thrive on.

“It’s unfortunate – really unfortunate – that there’s going to be no supporters there to see it but for the players, for the individual performances, for the club and the team development, they’re brilliant games to look forward to.

“The electricity, atmosphere, rawness, noise, colour – all of that's going to be missing.

“We'll just have to adapt to it as best we can. We've pleased reasonably well over the past couple of months and are on a good run of wins.”