Lennon remains wary as Celtic eyes qualification
While Neil Lennon looks forward with cautious optimism to what he considers could be his greatest achievement as a football manager, Celtic’s opposition in tonight’s final Champions League group game have made clear their intentions to crash the party.
December 5th, 2012
To qualify for the knockout stages tonight, Lennon’s Celtic team needs a better result against rock-bottom Spartak Moscow than that of Benfica on their visit to the Nou Camp – and more than anyone, Lennon realises the pressure on his team as well as that of the opposition, but won’t stress it on them himself.
“This is their moment and they might not get this opportunity again. I’m not going to put any extra pressure on them – I just want them to go and play as they can at home on a big European night: aggressively and with a good tempo to the game.”
The potential 10 points on which Celtic could finish is the highest total ever achieved by a Scottish club in the group stages, but for Lennon the prospect of a juicy last-16 tie outweighs any such milestone.
“The players have enjoyed the competition, they have thrived on it and they are looking for more.
“[Qualification] would be great for everyone associated with the club and give the players something to really get their teeth into in the new year.
“Regardless of the outcome, we will have European football next year.”
The timing couldn’t be better for Celtic – tonight’s opponents Spartak Moscow have travelled to Celtic Park without a permanent manager after sacking Unai Emery in the aftermath of a 4-1 defeat by local rivals Dynamo – but Lennon remains wary.
“They may come and play with freedom and that could be a dangerous ingredient for us.
“What I want is for us to win, that’s all we can do and that would mean Benfica would need a win in Barcelona.”