independent

Monday 21 April 2014

Lennon eager for Friday night games

Celtic manager Neil Lennon believes Friday night football could help his side's Champions League campaign, but stopped short of calling for its introduction in case the concession was viewed as unfair.

Lennon felt fatigue played a factor in his team's 2-1 defeat by Benfica in Lisbon on Tuesday night, when Ezequiel Garay scored a 71st-minute winner. Celtic had played in Aberdeen on Saturday, while their Portuguese opponents had played on Friday night.

Lennon pointed to research by former Wales assistant manager Raymond Verheijen as evidence that an extra day's rest can make a big difference.

"His point was that when you play Champions League football and only have two days' recovery in between a game, you are 40pc more likely to lose a goal in the last 20 minutes," said Lennon, whose team will qualify for the knock-out stages if they better Benfica's result against Barcelona when they take on Spartak Moscow on December 5.

"I was disappointed with the way we played anyway, but it has been a heavy schedule for us. I think Friday night football is a good idea. For European games it might be beneficial to us in the long run."

However, Lennon did not want to look like he was seeking special treatment. "That might cause an outcry amongst other clubs and people saying, 'why wasn't it done before to help other clubs?" he added. "I don't think you can implement it now."

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