Neil Lennon not expecting challenge to Celtic title defence

Former Celtic manager Neil Lennon
Lennon managed Celtic between 2010 and 2014, winning three league titles

Former Celtic manager Neil Lennon does not expect any team to challenge the reigning Scottish Premiership champions in the league this season.

Ronny Deila has taken over at Celtic Park for this season and Lennon expects his successor to win the title.

"There's an incredible differential between Celtic and any other team," Lennon told BBC Radio 5live.

"Once Ronny Deila gets his own stamp on the team I would expect Celtic to keep improving the way they're going."

And Lennon added: "We won the league by 29 points last year and won it by the end of March with seven or eight games to spare, and I can't see anyone running them close again this season.

"You fancy Aberdeen to be the second strongest team in Scotland.

"[Motherwell boss] Stuart McCall has worked miracles on such a small budget, but he's got his work cut out to finish second again.

"Dundee United - they've sold two of their better players. I'm hoping Jackie [McNamara] will get a bit of money to improve them, but I fancy Aberdeen to be second off the back of what was a very good season for them last year."

Following relegation for Edinburgh's senior clubs last season and a second successive promotion for Ally McCoist's Rangers, Lennon expects Scotland's second tier to be "fascinating".

"It's going to be a strange season with Hibs, Hearts and Rangers in the Championship," he explained.

"I think Ally's remit is to just get them back into the Scottish Premiership as soon as possible.

"They've romped through the first two divisions and they're going to have a battle on their hands this season, but I expect Rangers to come through comfortably."

Celtic have been reinstated to the Champions League after Legia Warsaw were punished for fielding an ineligible player during their third round qualifying tie against the Scottish side.

Celtic defender Adam Matthews
Adam Matthews was dejected after losing to Legia but Celtic are back in the Champions League

Deila's men will take on Maribor in the play-off round later this month.

"From Celtic's perspective it's always difficult when a new manager comes in - the Champions League games are the most important of Celtic's season and they're the first of the season," Lennon added. "They're cup finals.

"Ronny hasn't had enough time to put his own stamp on the squad.

"They've got a huge slice of luck here and they've got to maximise it now. I hope this has given the players a shot in the arm.

"I don't think Maribor will be good as Legia so Celtic have an outstanding chance of making the group stages which will open up the whole season for Celtic and give Ronny the time that he needs to put his own influence on the club."