Neil Lennon praised Rangers for their Scottish Communities League Cup win over Motherwell last night and considered the exciting prospect of an Old Firm quarter-final tie against the Light Blues.
With the Ibrox club relaunched into the Irn-Bru Third Division this season following their descent into administration, the Clydesdale Bank Premier League will be without four Old Firm derbies this season.
However, the possibility of the two Glasgow giants meeting in one of the cup competitions moved closer with Rangers’ 2-0 win over the SPL leaders which followed Celtic’s 4-1 third-round win over Raith Rovers on Tuesday night.
The Celtic boss, at Lennoxtown where he was helping to publicise the announcement that £150,000 had been raised by Celtic for cancer research, has an SPL trip to Fir Park on Saturday and a Champions League clash with Spartak Moscow in Russia next Tuesday.
When asked about the possible cup game against Rangers this season, Lennon said: “I thought Rangers, especially in the second half last night, looked the hungrier team.
“I thought the intensity of the game and the atmosphere was very good, Rangers scored two good goals and deserved to win the game.
“If we keep winning and they keep winning in competitions then there is a good chance of that (meeting) but we will see what the draw brings.
“I would fancy anyone, as long as we are at home.
“It would be nice to get another home tie, it gives us a decent advantage in these competitions.
“The players love the (Old Firm) games. Whether we get an Old Firm game or not I don’t know, it is not on my radar yet because it has not materialised.
“We are just pretty motivated into making inroads into the top of the table and obviously we have a big game coming up next week.
“So we have a lot to think about rather than other clubs.”
The former Celtic skipper was unsure as to whether Ally McCoist’s men had done his side a favour by inflicting upon the Steelmen their first domestic defeat of the season.
The champions could go top of the table with a win in Lanarkshire but Lennon, who revealed that Georgios Samaras will return to the squad after training today for the first time since injuring his elbow on international duty with Greece earlier in the month, said: “Psychologically it would be great going in to the game next week (top of the SPL) but all our focus is on Motherwell and trying to build up a bit of momentum, particularly domestically.
“I was really pleased with the performance on Tuesday and I want to take that into the game on Saturday.
“Motherwell have started the season very well.
“I don’t know how damaging last night’s result will be for them but they are at home and Fir Park is always a tough venue.
“However, we are very motivated to go and win the game.”
Lennon confirmed that Celtic approached Victor Wanyama with a view to renegotiating his deal while four other players are also in line for new contracts.
The Kenya midfielder, 21, had been linked with Manchester United and Liverpool, among other top clubs, during the summer transfer window.
Wanyama’s agent, Rob Moore, wants the Parkhead club to recognise his client’s progress before “rewarding him accordingly.”
“We got the two Twardzik brothers done (extended contracts) this week,” said Lennon.
“Gary Hooper, Thomas Rogne, along with Victor, Adam (Matthews) and James (Forrest), they are all in talks at the minute and we hope to get over the line with all of them.
“These are private negotiations (with Wanyama) obviously.
“Rob knows our stance on it. I wouldn’t say there was a stalemate, I’m sure we can come to some sort of resolution.
“It is not that he has come banging at our door, we’ve gone to him because we feel he has been terrific in his time here.
“We did it with Beram Kayal and we did it with Emilio Izaguirre the season before.
“I like that policy where you reward players who have done well. It is always a great incentive for the players to keep improving.”