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Lennon's livid as Benfica keeper stirs it up

CELTIC boss Neil Lennon has angrily dismissed claims by Champions League opponents Benfica that his Bhoys team are a negative side.

The Parkhead club are back in Lisbon tonight with memories of their 1967 European Cup win refreshed in the minds of their supporters, but there's little time for Lennon and his players to reflect on the past as they seek a win to guarantee Celtic a place in the last 16 of the competition.

But comments by Benfica keeper Artur have angered the Armagh native. He was quoted in the local media as saying that the negative tactics used by Celtic in their win over Barcelona were bad for the game.

"I'm not sure their goalkeeper has watched any of our games to tell you the truth. So he's based that assumption on what he's heard, quotes from other people," says Lennon ahead of the Lisbon clash.

"In both games against Barcelona I started with two strikers. And we scored three goals in two games against Barca and three in Moscow. So we've done okay.

"You know what it's like, if you tell a big enough mistruth, people will believe it.

"Listen, I go out to win every game. It doesn't always work out that way because sometimes you have to accept that the opposition are very good.

"Sometimes you can be made to look ordinary when you are being pinned back. But that's fine. We will take the same sort of philosophy into this game and we will try to go out and win it.

"We'll try to score because that will be important and it would put Benfica under massive pressure. We'll see how they react to that.

"People call us negative but with 15 minutes to go against Barcelona a defender came off and we put a centre-forward on.

"It worked for us that night. Some days it does, some days it doesn't but we were always trying to get something out the game, whether it was a win or a draw. It'll be the same tomorrow night.

"I don't think this team is built to sit in and suck it up. Yes, we did it well against Barcelona but that was because Barcelona make you do that. Not many teams can get a grip of you like that and force you on to the back foot the way they do," added Lennon.

Celtic's group in the Champions League is evenly poised with just six points between the leaders Barcelona and bottom side Spartak Moscow, with Celtic second on seven points but Lennon is confident about his side's European chances and the hopes of a place in the Europa League at least.

"If Spartak win it'll be irrelevant anyway. If they don't then we know we've got at least European football after Christmas. That's a good start for us going into the game," he says.

"I think the pressure is on Benfica as they've only got one bite at it. They know if we draw or we win then they'll be out.

"I'm not saying we're more relaxed about it but we know that we can still take it to the last game in Glasgow.

"But I'm not coming here for a draw because I don't think you can set up to play for that. We're going to go and try to win the game."