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Champions League Qualifying Third Round

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Champions League Qualifying Third Round

Lennon: Fresh squad is key

Celtic manager Neil Lennon says it is worth "sacrificing" some of his side's remaining league games for the long-term health of his players.

Last Updated: 01/05/13 at 18:46 Post Comment

Neil Lennon (centre): Wants players to be given proper rest

Neil Lennon (centre): Wants players to be given proper rest

With the Scottish Premier League title already won, Lennon rested the likes of Efe Ambrose, Kris Commons and Joe Ledley for Sunday's 3-1 defeat to second-placed Motherwell.

And the Hoops boss has revealed that goalkeeper Fraser Forster, defenders Emilio Izaguirre and Charlie Mulgrew and forwards Gary Hooper and Georgios Samaras will sit out this Sunday's trip to Ross County.

Celtic have the Scottish Cup final against Hibernian to come on 26 May and an early start to next season with the UEFA Champions League qualifiers scheduled for mid-July and Lennon believes he is correct to prioritise the future, even if it means losing league matches.

"Charlie, Sammy, Gary, Emilio and Fraser will all be getting a break as they won't be getting an opportunity later on and we feel this is the best thing to do for them come the start of pre-season," he told Celtic View.

"Of course Ross County will be a difficult game - they all are - but I have to think about going ahead, moving on.

"I have to think about the lack of rest they are going to get come the summer, so all these things come into our thinking.

"It's been a long hard season for the players and there will be another long, hard schedule for them next season, with the qualifiers coming round so early.

"We are sacrificing a couple of games now with forward planning, one, for the cup final and, two, for close season and pre-season.

"We are the champions and must not forget that. The league is done and dusted. You don't like losing games but we have to give the squad players an opportunity now that the main games are over.

"I want to play some of them and give them some game time and rest the guys who have played a lot of games.

"There are squad places up for grabs in the cup final and it's healthy to have this competition."

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