Neil Lennon would rather his players did not go away on international duty during the pandemic after three players tested positive for Covid-19 while with their countries and another was forced to self-isolate.
Israel pair Hatem Elhamed and Nir Bitton will miss Saturday’s Glasgow derby against Rangers, live on Sky Sports, after returning positive tests, with Ryan Christie unavailable after he was deemed to be a contact of former Hoops team-mate Stuart Armstrong while on Scotland duty.
Odsonne Edouard also tested positive while with France U21s. He is due to return to Glasgow on Friday, making him a doubt for the Rangers game.
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Speaking to Sky Sports News, Lennon said: “It’s very difficult when you’ve got players travelling all around the world, going from one bio bubble to another. They become vulnerable and open to [the virus].
“We have worked so hard to protect them from that, at a lot of expense to the club themselves.
“It can’t go on this way because we’re losing too many players, not just us but a lot of other clubs as well, and even countries.
“Look at the Czech Republic, they had to completely change their squad, which totally dilutes the quality and integrity of the competition.”
While Lennon admits he would prefer players not to travel, he would never try to stop them representing their countries.
“That’s something I would never want to do to a player,” said Lennon. “These are unprecedented times and we are in a very difficult situation. Even at home it looks like the virus seems to be ramping itself up again.
“Ideally we don’t want them to travel but we’re not going to point the finger and say, ‘you can’t go’. We want them to represent their country and do well, but not totally at our expense.”
Celtic can move above Rangers at the top of the Scottish Premiership with victory on Saturday but Lennon says the result will have no bearing on where the title goes.
“It’s way too early,” said the Northern Irishman. “We had this conversation after winning at Ibrox last year and after we lost at Celtic Park in December. It didn’t pan out the way people predicted.
“We’re on a good run and have got to maintain that consistency. I want to get all my players back fit because we’ve got a real heavy block of games coming up.”
Lennon says Saturday’s game will be “a derby we’ve never seen before” due to the absence of supporters.
“The electricity, atmosphere, rawness, noise, colour – all of that’s going to be missing,” he said.
“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.
“It’s very difficult for this generation of players and what they’re going through without supporters, to get the best out of themselves. We’ve adapted as well as anybody.”
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