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Lennon knows value of Celtic seeing off Sarajevo


Celtic manager Neil Lennon. Photo: PA

Celtic manager Neil Lennon. Photo: PA


Celtic manager Neil Lennon. Photo: PA

The exoticism of European football has been reduced to a travel bubble, a quarantined hotel floor and a game almost devoid of local colour, but success remains crucial to the ability of Celtic to strengthen their squads at a time when they are constrained by financial rigour.

Neil Lennon acknowledged as much ahead of his side's Europa League play-off away to Sarajevo.

"It would be really important and would put us on a really decent financial footing. The money is a by-product of the game really," said Lennon of the consequence of victory in Bosnia tonight. "We've not really given it that much thought. I just want us to get through and play well.

"We want to build on the weekend's performance and come away with a good win. We're going to have to play really strongly and be really concentrated at set-plays. If we can do that, we believe we've got the fire power to win the game."

The composition of Celtic's attack remains to be seen. Odsonne Edouard has been lacklustre, Albian Ajeti sustained an injury during Sunday's 3-0 win over Hibernian at Celtic Park and is ruled out, as is James Forrest. Patryk Klimala has yet to push to the fore of his manager's thoughts and Leigh Griffiths has scarcely registered as even a marginal figure having sustained a calf injury.

Lennon cited Griffiths as a candidate for inclusion but, nevertheless, it would be a surprise were the striker to feature other than as a substitute.

"He's ready to play a part. He's really handy to have around, so he could get game-time if we need him," Lennon said. "He's doing OK, although he's obviously not played a lot of football, but he's been training the past few weeks and has looked more up to speed."

Success tonight would have an effect on the longer-term health of football in Scotland, which could overtake Turkey in the UEFA rankings to secure an automatic Champions League place for the country's title holders.

Lennon is wary of a Sarajevo team who have the muscular attributes to cause Celtic problems on their Balkan expedition.

"They've won their past four games and negotiated the Europa League tie [against Podgorica]," said the Celtic manager. "They are a big physical team who have made a few changes from last year. They are conceding goals, which is an area we are hoping to exploit.

"We have to play with a real intensity. Riga gave everything last week and you'd imagine Sarajevo will be the same. We have to leave everything out there on the pitch. It's really important for our season that we negotiate the tie." (© Daily Telegraph, London)