FORMER Celtic striker Chris Sutton believes that Thursday night's Europa League clash with Milan is Neil Lennon's 'last throw of the dice' as manager.

The Parkhead boss is facing intense scrutiny after a poor run of form that has seen the Premiership champions fall 11 points behind Rangers in the title race with two games in hand, eliminated from the Europa League with two games to spare and, most recently, knocked out of the Betfred Cup by Ross County.

The club's dismal run of form culminated in a fan protest outside Celtic Park on Sunday after their 2-0 defeat to the Staggies that signalled the end of their 35-game winning run in domestic cup competitions, as hundreds of angry supporters congregated at the ground to demand Lennon's resignation.

The pressure facing the Celtic manager will not relent though, and the club's upcoming fixtures are looking increasingly make-or-break if Lennon is to remain in his post and see out the season - starting with Thursday night's game at the San Siro.

Sutton says he expects Lennon to play his strongest starting line-up in what is essentially a dead rubber in Milan as he will expect a reaction to the weekend's loss, but fears that could leave the squad in poor shape when they return to league against St Johnstone on Sunday.

It's a difficult situation, admitted Sutton, who argued that the meeting with Saints is the bigger of the two games. 

And the former Blackburn forward added that if Lennon were to turn things around and secure an historic tenth straight title, he has no doubt that it would be his old team-mate's greatest achievement in the game.

"It [winning 10-in-a-row] would rank as his greatest-ever achievement, bar none, because it can’t get any worse," Sutton told the Daily Record.

"The Celtic support have turned on him in the respect they don’t want him. He will be hurting, he will be thinking, he won’t be sleeping. 

"He has got to somehow hope he can magic something up. But if Neil wins the [Milan] game, he’ll think he’s back on track. 

"A lot of people - myself included - wouldn’t think that’d be the case but the fact that he is in charge is an odd decision by the club because of the implications of team selection.

"Celtic have to go for the league now. In my opinion, they have to play a complete second string on Thursday. Europe doesn’t matter now. Celtic can’t qualify.

"There’s a big question on whether the game against St Johnstone is bigger than Milan. And of course it is because Celtic are out of European competition now.

"But if you are Neil, you are thinking, 'I’ve got to win this [Milan] game'. So he is going to play his strongest XI. That’s what I would do if I were him.

"We thought he’d had his last throw of the dice, but this must be. Therefore, that could have a knock-on effect to Sunday."