By Alex Stevens
Neil Lennon is convinced Celtic will dump Rangers out of the Scottish Cup – and nothing will have prepared Mark Warburton for the Old Firm.
The Glasgow rivals go head-to-head in the semi-finals of the competition at Hampden Park on 17 April.
Lennon has been impressed with the progress of Scottish Championship leaders Rangers under Warburton but still expects Celtic to seal a place in the final.
The former Parkhead manager and midfielder said: “Nothing will prepare Warburton for his first taste of the Old Firm as a manager.
“I just think Celtic will be too strong for Rangers on the day. I’m not sure Warburton’s Rangers side will have come up against as good a team as Celtic yet.
“Like all Old Firm games, it will be about who performs on the day.”
The pressure has been piled on under-fire Celtic manager Ronny Deila ahead of the titanic showdown but Lennon is convinced the Norwegian’s big-game experience will give him the edge.
Deila won his only match against the Ibrox side in a 2-0 victory in the League Cup semi-final last February.
Lennon said: “When the semi-final draw was made it intrigued me. Rangers were superb against Dundee in the last round but they have a young team.
“Mark Warburton doesn’t have any Old Firm experience and Ronny Deila has. Ronny won the League Cup semi-final last year and I just think Celtic will be too strong for Rangers on the day.
“With the game being at Hampden, that moves the bumpers a bit too for Rangers. I just think that with the big-game experience Celtic have, they will win.
“There is a gap between the two sides. It may not be as big as it was when the two clubs met last season but it is still there.
“There is no question Rangers have turned things around under Warburton and the football they are playing is flowing.
“There seems to be a lot of confidence about Rangers going into this game and a lot of negativity regarding Celtic.”
In other Celtic news, a left-back has revealed he is close to sign a new contract with the club.