St Johnstone's visit only "as big as any other game" says Celtic's Nir Bitton as defender dismisses "nonsense" over Neil Lennon
Nir Bitton refuses to consider that the Celtic’s hosting of St Johnstone on Sunday has become a dare-not-fail-to-win game for Neil Lennon and his side - as a result of the 4-2 loss in Milan extending the club’s dire recent run to two wins in 11 games, during which 27 goals have been conceded.
The heat on the beleaguered Lennon would surely become of burn-up proportions were Celtic to fall further behind a Rangers side currently boasting an 11-point league advantage in a campaign where Celtic appear to have melted as they pursue an historic 10th straight title.
Lennon’s men have taken a solitary point from five Europa League games to make no impression on qualification from Group H, witnessed their four-year unbeaten cup run with last Sunday’s home League Cup loss to Ross County, and taken only five points from a possible 12 in the Premiership to leave supporters in ferment.
Yet asked about how big the hosting of the Perth club has become as Lennon is left with no further wriggle room, Bitton said: “It’s as big as any other game. We go in to every game to win and to give everything on the pitch. It doesn’t always work but the purpose is always there. We need to win and hopefully we will produce a good performance.”
The Israeli felt the display, if not the necessary defensive resilience, was of a good level against the Serie A leaders and slapped down any suggestions that the Celtic squad is no longer motivated to go the extra mile for Lennon.
“We always play for the manager,” Bitton said. “It’s been that way for the seven years I’ve been here. It’s nonsense what is being said on the outside. I have never heard anyone say they are not playing for the manager. We all have a good connection with him. At the end of the day we play for ourselves as well. We play for our pride, our families and for the fans. We don’t like to get slaughtered. I don’t think we deserve it, after what we have done, especially in the last four years. But this is football. We need to look forward and create more happy moments for the fans and for the team.”
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