Celtic manager Neil Lennon acknowledges they do not have much wriggle room if they are to catch Scottish Premiership leaders Rangers – but insists the task is “not insurmountable”.
Rangers, unbeaten in the league, are 16 points clear, though champions Celtic have played three games fewer.
The rivals meet at Ibrox on 2 January.
“Now we have to dig deep and claw back a big deficit,” said Lennon, whose side beat Hearts to win last season’s Scottish Cup on Sunday.
“We have to win the games in hand; if we do that, then we’ve still got a bit of work to do.
“We’ve got a big gap to close and we can’t give too much away any more.”
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On Monday, Lennon’s former team-mate John Hartson told BBC Scotland he felt his old side need “a miracle” to win a 10th successive title. However, that is a view Lennon does not share.
“I’ve seen comebacks before,” said the Northern Irishman. “It’s not insurmountable whatsoever. But the way we’re playing, we need to be more consistent. Not just over a run of games but even within games.”
Saying the club has “three very important games” – beginning with Wednesday’s visit of Ross County – to play before the new year trip to Ibrox, Lennon would not be drawn on the significance of the impending Old Firm derby.
“There’s a lot of football to play between now and then,” he said. “Everyone is surmising that Rangers win all their games. That may not be the case.”
Lennon is also convinced his players will get a boost from Sunday’s dramatic Scottish Cup success.
Celtic secured an unprecedented quadruple treble with a tense 4-3 penalty shootout win over Hearts after a final delayed from last season ended 3-3 after extra time.
“There is a lot of good feeling around the place, players are galvanised and full of energy,” said Lennon.
“You are hoping a big burden of pressure is off them and they can go out and play a bit more freely and with a little less anxiety and chip away at winning games.
“But there’s no doubt it is a fantastic achievement for them and it has given them a huge psychological lift.
“We completed one part of what was required for us – and now we have to dig deep and claw back a big deficit.”
Celtic are due to travel to Dubai for a winter training camp after the Rangers game. However, Covid-19 restrictions in Scotland may need to be strengthened further.
Asked of the club were reconsidering plans, Lennon replied: “Not at the minute, but we may possibly have to. That’s a decision that won’t be in our hands, it’ll be for the associations or the government to decide on that.”
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