Wednesday 23 August 2017

Lennon plays down pressure for Sion tie

Jamie Holland

NEIL LENNON insists he is under no boardroom pressure to take Celtic past Sion tonight and into the group stages of the Europa League.

The play-off tie against the Swiss side is finely balanced after the first leg in Glasgow finished 0-0, and Celtic's spirits were hardly raised by their shock 1-0 defeat at home to St Johnstone last Sunday.

In Lennon's first shot at Europe as Celtic manager, the Hoops were knocked out of the Champions League and Europa League at the qualifying stages, and last week the club published financial results which revealed the importance of European football.

However, he dismissed suggestions that he was under extra pressure to deliver tonight.

"The pressure is no different from any other game for Celtic. Every game is a huge game -- there is always something riding on it," he said.

"It is a very important game for me personally. I would dearly love to take the club into the group stages, but it is going to be very difficult. Sion are a good team.

"And in the context of the season it is a big game because it would open doors revenue-wise and it would keep our interest in Europe going at least until December.

Lennon castigated his players after their defeat by St Johnstone, describing their performance as "immature" and "complacent".

Asked if he had any regrets about his choice of words, he replied: "No. Not at all. I didn't think it was harsh. It was the way I saw it.

"I am pretty good with the players when they perform well and, if they don't perform the way we expect them to, I have every right to point that out.

Lennon has doubts over Kelvin Wilson (leg), Beram Kayal and Gary Hooper (both ankle), who all missed the last two matches, while Charlie Mulgrew is battling to recover from a hamstring strain he suffered against St Johnstone.

FC Sion v Celtic,

Live, Setanta Ireland, 7.30

Irish Independent

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