Celtic confirmed on Monday that manager Neil Lennon and 13 senior players are self-isolating, but the club are still defending the decision to hold a training camp in Dubai.

Defender Christopher Jullien tested positive for COVID-19 after the team returned to Scotland ahead of Monday's Premiership clash with Hibernian.

Although all other squad and staff members returned negative tests, Lennon, assistant John Kennedy and 13 first-team players are self-isolating after being deemed close contacts.

The reigning champions remain insistent they followed "rigorous" COVID-secure protocols and that the threat of contracting the virus would have been similarly high had they stayed in Scotland.

In a statement, Celtic said: "Clearly we are hugely disappointed, as we know our supporters will be. The contacts were identified during the period from Wednesday last week, primarily around flight and team coach travel, during which time Celtic applied the same rigorous protocols used for pre-season training camps, UEFA match travel and for all domestic match arrangements in Scotland.    

"These protocols have served us well in the past, as the club has not had one positive case in our own 'bubble' until now. As we have already stated, Celtic's decision to travel to Dubai for a training camp was for performance reasons. Whilst we were in Dubai, the announcements made on January 4 significantly changed the COVID landscape.  

"The reality is that a case could well have occurred had the team remained in Scotland, as other cases have done in Scottish football and across UK sport in the past week.
 
"Celtic has done everything it can to ensure we have in place the very best procedures and protocols. From the outset of the pandemic, Celtic has worked closely with the Scottish Government and Scottish football and we will continue to do so."

Steven Gerrard felt Rangers had made a statement with their 1-0 win over rivals Celtic, but insisted they were not looking at their 19-point lead atop the Scottish Premiership. 

Rangers took a huge step towards winning the league, an achievement which would deny Celtic 10 in a row, with a narrow triumph at Ibrox on Saturday. 

Callum McGregor's second-half own goal, shortly after Nir Bitton had been sent off for a foul on Alfredo Morelos, meant Gerrard's men triumphed despite not registering a shot on target. 

They also won 2-0 at Celtic Park in October and have won three straight derbies dating back to last season, their best run since 2008 when Walter Smith was in charge. 

While 19 points is a formidable advantage, Gerrard is not taking anything for granted, with Celtic holding three games in hand. 

"We don't look at the 19-point lead, we look at our next game against Aberdeen," Gerrard said to Sky Sports. 

"There are three points available there and 48 still to play for, so still a lot of challenges, a lot of obstacles to get over. We don't look at leads and our season starts now. 

"But today was big in terms of making a statement and proving we can win our second derby out of two."

Celtic were on top until Bitton saw red, with Rangers goalkeeper Allan McGregor making three important first-half saves, most notably tipping a 25-yard Leigh Griffiths strike onto the post. 

Asked about McGregor's performance, Gerrard said: "Wow - outstanding. He is a world-class goalkeeper. 

"Good decision [making him man of the match]. The couple of saves he made kept us in the match. He is outstanding, reliable and trustworthy.  

"I knew already but I now know even more why he has been so successful at this club because he has bailed us out again." 

Former Liverpool captain Gerrard was not overly worried by Rangers' performance, adding: "First half we were not good enough, we were not ourselves and second best in a lot of areas. 

"There was a massive improvement in the second half, then obviously the sending off is a big, major incident in the game and it looked like only one team would win it from there. 

"Credit to Celtic - they played really well in the first half, but we were outstanding in the cup final for 90 minutes not too long ago and got nothing for it. It is about the end result. 

"You are not always going to be pretty on the eye and able to show your style. It is about the outcome. It was all about the three points, especially at this stage of the season. 

"It is another big three points and another clean sheet, so really proud of the team in terms of their efforts. We stretch our lead, remain humble and move on to Aberdeen."

Rangers took a huge step towards winning the Scottish Premiership title as Callum McGregor's own goal gave them a 1-0 Old Firm derby win over Celtic.

Steven Gerrard's unbeaten team now lead their fierce rivals by a formidable 19 points at the top of the table.

Celtic still have three games in hand but their hopes of clinching a historic 10th straight title look increasingly slim, with this result piling the pressure on manager Neil Lennon.

Champions Celtic had the better of Saturday's match at Ibrox, but the tables were turned when Nir Bitton was sent off after 62 minutes.

Callum McGregor then inadvertently gave Rangers, who did not register a shot on target in the contest, a priceless winning goal.

Celtic made an excellent start and it took two pivotal saves from goalkeeper Allan McGregor to stop the visitors from going into an early lead.

He impressively got down low to deny Odsonne Edouard, who had not played in the last meeting between the sides, which Rangers won 2-0 in October.

The Rangers keeper then produced an even better fingertip stop to tip a 25-yard shot from Leigh Griffiths that was destined to find the top corner onto the post.

Gerrard brought on Ianis Hagi – who had been dropped from the starting XI in place of Ryan Kent – at half-time, with Kemar Roofe coming off and his side gradually began to improve.

Rangers got a big boost when Bitton was dismissed after wrestling Alfredo Morelos to the ground as the striker attempted to race on to a James Tavernier pass and looked like he had a clear path to goal.

They moved in front after 70 minutes, Joe Aribo flicking a Tavernier onto Callum McGregor, whose arm deflected the ball beyond Vasilios Barkas.

Celtic substitute Mohamed Elyounoussi shot just over but there was no way back for the 10 men, who have now lost three straight league derbies for the first time since 2008.

Chelsea have reportedly joined the race for Erling Haaland as Manchester United consider their options.

Haaland, 20, has been heavily linked with a move after starring for Borussia Dortmund.

Europe's biggest clubs are lining up to sign the forward, and Chelsea are apparently among them, while United may look elsewhere.

 

TOP STORY – CHELSEA JOIN RACE FOR HAALAND

Chelsea are ready to enter the race for Dortmund star Haaland, according to 90min.

Manchester City are also reportedly heavily interested in the Norway international, who has also been linked with Manchester United and Real Madrid.

Haaland has scored 33 goals in 32 games for Dortmund since arriving at the Bundesliga club from Salzburg in January.

 

ROUND-UP

- Manchester United, meanwhile, may look elsewhere. The Mirror reports the Premier League giants may be unable to sign Haaland due to their "sour relationship" with his agent, Mino Raiola. The report says United see Everton striker Dominic Calvert-Lewin as an alternative.

- With Virgil van Dijk and Joe Gomez still sidelined, Liverpool continue to be linked with defenders. Todofichajes.com reports the Premier League leaders are interested in Real Madrid centre-back Eder Militao. Meanwhile, the Liverpool Echo says the club are in talks with Celta Vigo over 16-year-old defender Stefan Bajcetic.

- Struggling in the Premier League, Arsenal are expected to strengthen in January. The Daily Star reports the Gunners are considering a loan move for Real Madrid forward Vinicius Junior next month.

- After just one Premier League appearance for Chelsea this season, Antonio Rudiger has been linked with a move away. Le Parisien reports Paris Saint-Germain want the defender in January.

- Celtic forward Odsonne Edouard is apparently attracting interest from elsewhere. CalcioMercato reports Juventus and Milan are interested in the 22-year-old.

- Barcelona midfielder Riqui Puig is set to leave Camp Nou following repeated criticism from Blaugrana boss Ronald Koeman. Manchester City and Bayern Munich are both keen on the 21-year-old, according to Fichajes.

Celtic completed an unprecedented quadruple treble with a dramatic penalty shootout victory over Hearts in the delayed 2019-20 Scottish Cup final.

Hoops boss Neil Lennon has been under huge pressure this season, but his side made history at Hampden Park on Sunday.

The Glasgow giants made hard work of completing a fourth successive Scottish Premier League, Scottish Cup and Scottish League Cup clean sweep in a final that was pushed back due to the coronavirus pandemic.

They were level at 3-3 after extra-time, but the Championship leaders went down 4-3 on spot-kicks.

Kristoffer Ajer scored the winning penalty after Hearts duo Stephen Kingsley and Craig Wighton failed to beat Conor Hazard from 12 yards, with Craig Gordon having denied Celtic midfielder Ryan Christie.

Christie and Odsonne Edouard had given Lennon's side a 2-0 half-time lead, but Liam Boyce and Kingsley struck to force extra-time in an epic encounter.

Leigh Griffiths restored Celtic's lead and, although Josh Ginnelly brought the Edinburgh club level again, the Scottish champions were not to be denied a 12th domestic trophy in a row.

David Turnbull scored his first Celtic goal as the Hoops overcame Lille 3-2 to end their Europa League campaign on a high note and ease some of the pressure on Neil Lennon.

A dismal run of form has piled the pressure on Celtic boss Lennon and, despite a spirited display from his youthful side, it looked as though they would be extending their winless run to six matches.

Timothy Weah's maiden Lille goal – a fantastic volley from just inside the area – had made it 2-2, cancelling out Callum McGregor's first-half penalty, which came at the end of a frenetic seven-minute flurry in which Christopher Jullien and Jonathan Ikone also netted.

Lille looked well placed to push on and seal a win which would have seen them top Group H when Weah, son of Liberia legend George, struck against his former club, yet Turnbull's neat finish in his first European appearance secured a hard-fought Celtic triumph.

Celtic had the lead after 21 minutes – Julien heading in from Turnbull's fantastic left-wing corner.

Yet their advantage lasted under three minutes, with Yusuf Yazici taking advantage of McGregor's mistake by squaring for Ikone to tuck in.

Domagoj Bradaric's clumsy tackle on birthday boy Jeremie Frimpong gifted Celtic the opportunity to restore their lead, though, as McGregor atoned for his error with a composed finish.

McGregor got lucky when he diverted Cheikh Niasse's cross off Conor Hazard's left-hand post, before Turnbull saw a close-range shot deflected wide at the other end.

But Lille had a second equaliser when Celtic failed to clear a free-kick and Weah lashed in on the volley.

Celtic did not let their heads drop, though, and Turnbull was on hand to sweep home from Kristoffer Ajer's cross with 15 minutes remaining – Isaac Lihadji subsequently squandering a golden chance to snatch a point for Lille.

 

What does it mean? Lille miss out on top spot, Hoops avoid club-low

Celtic, who avoided losing a fourth straight home match in continental competition for the first time, finish bottom of Group H, but with four points – one more than their lowest tally in a European group.

Lille, meanwhile, have to settle for second place, with Milan having overcome Sparta Prague 1-0 to clinch top spot, and potentially an easier draw in the knockout stage.

Turnbull turns on the style

Former Motherwell midfielder Turnbull had stayed on the bench for all five of Celtic’s Europa League matches before Thursday’s clash, but he gave Lennon plenty of food for thought with a superb performance.

Playing in a free role off the striker, Turnbull had four attempts in total and created a joint team-high three chances.

Birthday blues for injured Frimpong

It was a 20th birthday spent in the wars for the versatile Frimpong. After clattering into the hoardings early on and taking a nasty blow to the head, he had to be withdrawn after sustaining an injury while drawing the foul which led to Celtic's penalty.

In his 30 minutes on the pitch, Frimpong had 12 touches, attempted five passes and lost possession six times.

What's next?

Celtic take on Kilmarnock as they aim to get their domestic form back on track, while Lille host Bordeaux in Ligue 1.

Stefano Pioli praised Milan's resilience as his side came from two goals down to beat Celtic 4-2 and qualify for the last 32 of the Europa League.  

Tomas Rogic and Odsonne Edouard put the Scottish team 2-0 up inside 14 minutes, but Milan stormed back through goals from Hakan Calhanoglu, Samu Castillejo, Jens Petter Hauge and Brahim Diaz.  

The result, combined with Lille's dramatic 2-1 win over Sparta Prague in Group H's other game, means Milan have sealed their spot in the knockout stages.  

Pioli – back in the dugout after missing three games with COVID-19 – lost experienced defender Simon Kjaer to injury in between Celtic's goals, and the Milan boss was pleased with how his young side overcame those early setbacks.  

"The lads wanted to put me to the test, to see if I'd fully recovered!" Pioli joked on Sky Sport Italia. 

"We had started well, but those two distractions caused problems. It can be a teachable moment to help us grow. Even when 2-0 down, we have to keep playing as a team, which is what we did today.

"I am glad that even without Kjaer, and with such a young line-up, we didn't lose our heads at 2-0 down. Celtic proved they wanted to get an important result and make a good impression at San Siro." 

Daniele Bonera was in charge of the first team while Pioli self-isolated after testing positive for COVID-19, with the former Fiorentina boss admitting his time from the club was difficult. 

"Those two weeks felt like an eternity," he added. "Aside from the games, it is a genuine pleasure to spend time with these players and my staff. We want to continue like this and be ambitious." 

Diaz took his tally in this season's competition to three goals, then admitted Pioli's return to the sidelines give Milan's players extra impetus for the game.  

"Pioli's return was very positive," he said. "His staff allowed us to work well, too, but his presence gives us an extra boost. We are satisfied with the performance." 

The on-loan Real Madrid forward has been limited to just six starts across all competitions this season, yet he insists he is happy at the Serie A leaders. 

"I am very happy to be here, as I feel really good at such a big club as Milan," he said. 

"I play wherever the coach wants me to. I know that I have to improve and I'm very happy to be doing it at this club."

Milan sealed their place in the Europa League last 32 after coming from behind to beat Celtic 4-2 in an entertaining Group H game at San Siro on Thursday. 

Stefano Pioli – back in the dugout after missing three games with COVID-19 – saw his side get off to a torrid start, with Tomas Rogic and Odsonne Edouard putting Neil Lennon's struggling Scottish Premiership outfit into an early two-goal lead. 

Milan powered back, though, and restored parity with quickfire goals from Hakan Calhanoglu and Samu Castillejo before the break.

Jens Petter Hauge scored a wonderful goal at the start of the second half and set up substitute Brahim Diaz with eight minutes remaining, with Milan advancing to the knockouts courtesy of Lille's dramatic late comeback for a 2-1 win over Sparta Prague in the group's other game.

Milan started in slapstick fashion and found themselves deservedly two goals down after just 14 minutes.

Rogic took full advantage of Rade Krunic's dismal control from Gianluigi Donnarumma's pass to whip into the bottom-left corner from 18 yards, before Edouard made the most of more woeful defending to clip over the Milan goalkeeper.

The hosts belatedly woke from their slumber and drew level thanks to two goals in the space of two minutes.

Calhanoglu scored his 18th direct free-kick in all competitions since the start of the 2013-14 season – second only to Lionel Messi (36) in Europe's top five leagues in that time – to reduce the deficit, before Castillejo wiped out Celtic's lead with a deflected close-range finish after Ante Rebic superbly teed him up with a backheel.

Hauge put Milan ahead five minutes after the interval, the Norway international skipping past a number of Celtic players before rolling a fine finish beyond Vasilios Barkas from 15 yards.

Donnarumma did well to paw away Ryan Christie's free-kick and Diaz wrapped up the win late on, lifting over Barkas after more impressive work from Hauge as Milan sealed a fifth consecutive triumph against Celtic, who have been victorious in just two of their past 11 games in all competitions.

Celtic manager Neil Lennon has been left "hurt" by fan protests, even though he would have understood if the club decided to sack him after a dismal run of form.

The Hoops, who are chasing a 10th straight league title, have managed just two wins from their past 10 matches in all competitions, with a 35-game unbeaten cup run coming to an end with a defeat to Ross County on Sunday.

Lennon's side sit second in the Scottish Premiership, 11 points adrift of Steven Gerrard's Rangers, and the loss to County sparked angry demonstrations from fans outside Celtic Park.

While understanding of the fans' frustrations, Lennon – who has the support of Celtic's board – admitted he has been hit hard by the protests against him and the club.

"On the scenes on Sunday, we're hurt and disappointed," Lennon said in a news conference ahead of Thursday's Europa League clash with Serie A leaders Milan.

"I understand the frustrations of the supporters because we are not in a great run at the minute. But it serves no purpose, particularly for the players.

"I'm old enough and big enough to take criticism and abuse. Some of it is justified and some of it is over the top. That is the role of a manager and that is the responsibility you have to bear.

"They [the players] felt the wrath of the supporters. It surprised some of them, it shook a few of them up. But they want to put things right for them and obviously the club and myself as well."

Lennon was asked if he believed the County defeat would have brought the curtain down on his second spell in charge of the club.

"Not in my heart of hearts, but I could understand if that had been the case," he replied.

"I am very grateful. They are not a board that sack managers for the sake of it. We have had great success. We are going through a tough time, but they don't leave you out on the lurch.

"For 20 years, I have done everything in my power to bring success to the club and the fans. That is not going to change on the run of a bad month or people being upset by my style of management."

Stefano Pioli struggled to sleep after being told he could return to work with Milan following a negative coronavirus test.

Milan head coach Pioli was unable to be present for the club's past three games after contracting COVID-19 last month, with Daniele Bonera taking charge of first-team affairs in the interim.

The Rossoneri boss and his assistant Giacomo Murelli returned negative results after swabs were taken on Tuesday, clearing him to lead training on Wednesday and return to the dugout for the Europa League Group H meeting with Celtic at San Siro on Thursday.

Milan will advance to the round of 32 if they defeat Celtic and Lille beat Sparta Prague, and the omens are in their favour having suffered just one defeat to the Scottish side in their 11 previous meetings.

"I missed the daily routine so much, being together with the team. When they told me I was negative I struggled to sleep due to the emotion," said Pioli, who will hope to steer his team to a fifth straight success against Celtic.

"Thanks to the club for having improved the technologies that allowed us to work calmly. Thanks to the fans who supported me and thanks to the team, because they made me proud.

"Thanks to Bonera, an intelligent guy. I had COVID but in a fairly light way – I was lucky.

"We did everything necessary to stay close to the team, before and during training as well as in the match, to talk to them after the match and to congratulate them.

"It's better to be present than to stay at home. I can say that 'smart working' doesn't work, because I have worked a lot more from home than on the pitch.

"However, seeing the players live is another thing and that's why I'm happy to be back."

Celtic's one point from four games equalled their worst start in the competition since 2009-10, while they have scored just one goal across their previous five visits to Milan.

The Serie A giants were defeated 3-0 by Lille in their previous Europa League game at San Siro and will be hoping to avoid losing back-to-back home matches in the competition for the first time.

Celtic were again tormented by Lukas Julis in another 4-1 defeat to Sparta Prague as they crashed out of the Europa League on Thursday.

Neil Lennon's Bhoys had lost by the same scoreline at home to Sparta earlier in the month and Odsonne Edouard's opener in the away fixture provided only a brief moment of respite before the hosts responded.

Dismal defensive lapses allowed David Hancko and Lukas Julis - the hat-trick hero in Scotland scoring twice this time - to prematurely end this year's European adventure.

And Sparta substitute Srdan Plavsic added the final flourish in the closing seconds.

Lukas Julis scored a hat-trick as Sparta Prague earned a 4-1 win against Celtic that all but ends their opponents' hopes of qualifying from Europa League Group H.

Pressure was already on Neil Lennon following a run of one win in five games and his team were again below par against a Sparta side who were without a number of regulars due to coronavirus.

Julis opened his account in the 26th minute and doubled his tally on the brink of half-time with a curled finish, the goals coming either side of Mohamed Elyounoussi hitting the bar from a rare Celtic chance.

The hosts were given a route back into the game 25 minutes from time when substitute Leigh Griffiths made an instant impact, but Julis killed off the contest with his third and Ladislav Krejci added a late fourth to pile on the misery.

David Moberg Karlsson crashed an early shot against the woodwork and was denied with another effort by Scott Bain, who also kept out Julis with a brilliant reaction save.

However, Sparta's pressure told moments later as Julis lashed into the roof of the net after David Hancko's glanced header had come back off the frame of the goal.

Celtic orchestrated a chance 38 minutes in, Elyounoussi meeting Ryan Christie's pass and grazing the crossbar with his volley, but Sparta were soon two goals in front through Julis' fine finish into the bottom-right corner.

Michal Sacek was given space to fire a long-range shot against the post as Celtic came within inches of shipping a third, though that let-off acted as a turning point of sorts.

Florian Nita kept out Tom Rogic's shot but Griffiths was on hand to fire the rebound into an empty net against a Sparta side previously without a point to their name.

Just as Celtic had some momentum on their side, Karlsson got away from Shane Duffy and squared the ball for Julis to bundle in, condemning the hosts to a third successive home defeat in the competition for a first time.

Substitute Krejci then got on the end of a Borek Dockal cross in the 90th minute to further the pain of Celtic, who have lost three home games in a row in the competition for the first time and sit bottom of their group.

Mohamed Elyounoussi's first-half double was not enough for Celtic as they squandered a two-goal lead to draw 2-2 with Lille in Thursday's Europa League Group H clash at Stade Pierre-Mauroy.

Celtic attacker Elyounoussi went some way to easing the growing pressure on boss Neil Lennon with his brace in the space of four minutes against the in-form hosts, who are now unbeaten in 10 games this season.

Scott Bain kept out Jonathan David's penalty and Sven Botman hit the crossbar before the interval in what was looking like being a frustrating day for Lille.

But a first victory away at French opposition in nine attempts since 1966 ultimately eluded Lennon's men as Zeki Celik and Jonathan Ikone struck in the second half to snatch a point for the Ligue 1 club.

Elyounoussi pulled the strings for Celtic from the early stages, setting up Albian Ajeti for a goal that was disallowed for offside and another chance that his team-mate skied over.

But the Norway international took matters into his own hands by firing the visitors ahead with a fine curling effort from 25 yards that left Mike Maignan stranded.

The finish for Elyounoussi's second was just as crisp as he guided a first-time shot away from Maignan into the bottom-left corner after being spotted by Jeremie Frimpong.

David was denied by Bain from the penalty spot after being felled by Shane Duffy and Botman clipped the top of the crossbar with a shot as Lille pushed for a way back into the game.

And they were given a lifeline through unmarked Celik's finish at the back post, the full-back bundling the ball past Bain after a corner was flicked into his path.

Celtic were under siege and a second goal followed eight minutes later as Yusuf Yazici's mishit shot fell kindly for Ikone to spin and fire past Bain, ensuring the points were shared.

Stefano Pioli praised his Milan team for showing the same will to win at Celtic that saw them to victory over Inter in the derby.

A 3-1 win over the Scottish champions in the Europa League on Thursday was a fine way for Milan to launch their Group H campaign.

Coming just five days after a 2-1 triumph over Inter, it was all the more pleasing to the head coach.

Goals from Rade Krunic, Brahim Diaz and substitute Jens Hauge saw off Neil Lennon's side at Parkhead.

Pioli said: "We handled the game well, even if in the second half we were less technically precise and we risked a little bit.

"It was important to show that we are not a normal team that shows less of a stimulus after such a desired victory as the derby.

"The secret? We all work in one direction, club, technical staff, players, we all feel involved."

Speaking to Italian broadcaster Sky Sport, Pioli added: "The secret lies in work, sacrifice and the desire to improve."

Milan return to Serie A action on Monday when they face Roma.

Pioli's team have won four from four to top the table and they are unbeaten in 21 games now across all competitions.

"Our strength is to think that the next match is always the most important, and we have to go forward with this mentality," Pioli told Milan TV.

"In harmony we work much better. I always tell the players to take advantage of every moment and improve more and more, because in football tests never end: you always have to prove.

"On Monday we will have a very important and difficult test, against a strong opponent with quality, especially at an attacking level. We will do our best to continue this positive streak."

Milan reached a landmark last achieved by the club over 50 years ago with their 3-1 Europa League win at Celtic on Thursday.

Stefano Pioli's Milan, who are unbeaten in 21 games – their best streak since 1996 – have now scored two or more goals in 10 consecutive games.

Opta revealed the last Milan team to do the same accomplished the feat in December 1964.

The current team's run began with a 4-1 victory at Sampdoria on July 29 and continued three days later with a 3-0 home win against Cagliari in their final match of the 2019-20 Serie A season.

Milan began the new campaign by seeing off Shamrock Rovers 2-0 in Europa League qualifying, and by beating Bodo/Glimt 3-2 and Rio Ave 9-8 on penalties after a 2-2 draw they reached the group stage, where Celtic were their first opponents.

Milan sit top of Serie A after four wins from four, beating Bologna and Crotone 2-0 before seeing off Spezia 3-0 and Inter 2-1 in Saturday's derby.

They will be hoping history does not repeat itself this season, however, having also been Serie A leaders when they were amid the 1964 goal glut, only to allow neighbours Inter to pass them in the closing weeks of the season, on their way to a Serie A and European Cup double.

 

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