Scottish Premier League

Lennon wary of cup final upset

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Sat, 25 May 2013 14:39:00

Neil Lennon was thrilled with Celtic's end to their Premier League campaign but is still wary ahead of the Scottish Cup final against Hibernian at Hampden Park.

The SPL champions warmed up for the showpiece occasion with a 4-0 win over St Johnstone at Parkhead with a similar scoreline at Dundee United last week.

Unsurprisingly, the Hoops are heavy favourites to beat the Easter Road side and secure the double.

However, the Parkhead manager is aware of some ropey recent displays at the national stadium, most notably the shock 3-2 Scottish Communities League Cup semi-final defeat to St Mirren in January.

"In the last two games the team has looked powerful and in the mood," said Lennon.

"They have played with great intensity and quality and I hope they bring that on Sunday.

"We beat St Johnstone, who qualified for Europe, quite comprehensively and then went to Dundee United last week, where people thought we would take our foot off the pedal, and we won that one 4-0 as well.

"But you can never tell. I don't want to tempt fate and I don't want to have anyone pointing the finger at me.

"We were playing exactly the same way going into the semi-final against St Mirren and looking really hungry, and we didn't play as well as we could on that particular day. So there are always warning signs there.

"Therefore, it is important that me and my backroom staff get all the bases covered.

"We have prepared them as well as we possibly can for this game and they will be ready for tomorrow."

The former Parkhead skipper will not read anything into Hibs' crushing 5-1 defeat by Edinburgh neighbours Hearts in last season's final.

"We respect Hibs," he said. "Pat Fenlon has done a very good job there and has got them back in the cup final for the second time in a row so he has proved it is no fluke.

"They will have their own incentives off the back of last season. I am sure they have learned a lot from that experience so you will have two highly-motivated teams going into the game."

The Northern Irishman does not believe defeat would be an anti-climax to a season in which his side also reached the last 16 of the Champions League.

"No," Lennon said. "We have won the league, we have progressed fantastically well in Europe and this game is a nice bonus for us to end the season."

Most people believe 28-goal Leigh Griffiths is the key to the Leith club's chances of winning the trophy for the first time since 1902.

However, Lennon was reluctant to focus too much on the striker, who is set to return to Wolves after his second loan spell at his boyhood heroes.

"He has been really impressive," he said. "He is a hungry boy who always wants to get into goalscoring positions.

"He plays on the shoulder of people so you can't give him half a yard because he is a bit like Kris Commons, he has power in both feet and at set-pieces he is a real specialist as he has proved this season.

"Missing chances doesn't faze him either, he keeps going. He is a real threat.

"But I don't want to just talk about one player. Hibs have a few attacking options.

"The young lad Alex Harris has come in and done particularly well as has young Ross Caldwell, so we will have our work cut out."

Right-back Adam Matthews has been ruled out after failing to shrug off a hamstring complaint which has kept him out since March.

Midfielders Victor Wanyama and Beram Kayal are suspended while defender Charlie Mulgrew (knee) and winger James Forrest (hamstring) will be assessed today.

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