Sunday 25 February 2018

Anthony Stokes relishing Champions League chance

Anthony Stokes
Anthony Stokes

Ronnie Esplin

Anthony Stokes admits he is looking forward to Celtic's Champions League campaign more than most after having to watch from the stands as his team-mates reached the last 16 of the competition last season.

A long-term ankle injury led to the 25-year-old missing the entire Champions League journey which saw Neil Lennon's side overcome Barcelona and Spartak Moscow in the group stages before losing to Italian giants Juventus in the first knock-out round.

Stokes helped Celtic through three qualifying rounds at the start of this season and the Scottish champions were rewarded for their efforts by being drawn alongside Barcelona, AC Milan and Ajax with next week's trip to San Siro first on the agenda.

"I am looking forward to it, massively," he said.

"There were mixed emotions last year. There was a great atmosphere at all the games and it was great to watch the lads do so well.

"But there was that little bit inside where I wanted to be involved.

"I hate watching any football to be honest, especially when it is my own team because I want to be playing.

"It was difficult but it spurred me on a little bit to work harder and try to come back stronger.

"We just have to go out and concentrate on our own game. We know it's going to be difficult against some of the best sides in the world so there will be no easy tasks.

"We just need to try and do what we did last year - stay compact and see what we can do."

Stokes is confident that a new deal is in the offing but is looking for a quick resolution.

The Irishman, who joined the Parkhead club in 2010, said: "I am in the last year so the sooner it's done the better."

Asked if he was becoming frustrated, the former Sunderland and Hibernian forward replied: "It is one these things, it is not for me to say, I don't know how the club deal with other contracts, I don't ask questions.

"I am in my last year and I would like to get it sorted as soon as possible but it is not really down to me.

"There is not much more I can do."

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