Europe has filled derby void - Lennon

PA Sport
Neil Lennon believes Celtic's European campaign can make up for the loss of the Old Firm derbies this season
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Neil Lennon believes Celtic's European campaign can make up for the loss of the Old Firm derbies this season

Neil Lennon believes the Champions League has filled the void at Celtic left by the absence of Old Firm rivals Rangers from the Clydesdale Bank Premier League this season.

Saturday would have been the first Old Firm derby of the 2012-13 season had Rangers not been relaunched in the Irn-Bru Third Division following their financial collapse.

Instead, Dundee, who took Rangers' place after finishing runners-up to Ross County in the First Division last season, will visit Parkhead to take on a Celtic side who began their Champions League group campaign with a goalless home draw against Benfica in midweek.

In addition to the return trip to Lisbon, the Scottish champions have matches home and away against Spartak Moscow and Barcelona to look forward to over the coming months. Lennon claimed it was those big European games which, in football terms, will make up for the loss of four Old Firm derbies this season.

"I haven't detected much of a difference," said the former Celtic skipper, when asked what impact Rangers' absence from the SPL has had.

"Eventually you move on. There has been a hole there but it is up to other clubs to fill that void.

"The games have been very competitive, the crowds have been good, and some of the football has been good.

"So at the minute, in terms of finances we will miss the four Old Firm games but it is not a huge loss from a footballing sense because obviously the European games will make up for that."

Dundee, who were invited into the top flight at the last minute, are struggling at the bottom of the SPL table with four points from six games. However, Lennon is reading nothing into the visitors' early-season form.

"It is an opportunity that Dundee may not have had, so why not make the most of it?," he said "They will come with no pressure on them tomorrow and that is dangerous for us so we have to be in the right frame of mind going into the game."

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