Sunday 21 January 2018

Lennon says patience key to Celtic's hopes of overturning Euro deficit

Ewing Grahame

CELTIC will be more concerned with not conceding an early goal than scoring themselves as they attempt to overturn a three-goal deficit in the second leg of tonight's Champions League qualifying round against Sporting Braga at Parkhead.

Neil Lennon's players have failed to keep a clean sheet in seven pre-season challenge matches -- shipping 12 goals on top of the three conceded in the defeat in Portugal -- and the manager has stressed the importance of patience for players and supporters alike tonight.

The former Northern Ireland international concedes that victory may not be enough to progress but, while the Glasgow club would be parachuted into the final Europa League qualifying-round draw as one of the seeded teams should they fail, they crave the revenue which comes from Europe's premier competition and have no desire to hand Old Firm rivals Rangers an extra £2m from UEFA as Scotland's sole Champions League representatives.

"If we lose an early goal then that would flatten everything," Lennon said. "It's important that we don't concede at any point during the 90 minutes or that will leave us needing to score five.


"There's no mad rush for us to score but I would like us to start at a decent tempo, try to make them defend and see what they've got."

Lennon kept his squad on the aeroplane after the other passengers had disembarked early last Thursday morning following their return from the first leg but the contents of their conversation have been kept secret.

"That's between me and the players but it wasn't a rollicking; more of a gee-up," Lennon said.

One player Lennon will have to plan without is Ireland midfield star Aiden McGeady, who has travelled to Russia for talks with Spartak Moscow.

On the day he was unveiled as Tony Mowbray's successor, Lennon spoke about bringing back the thunder to Parkhead; he hopes to benefit from a raucous, partisan atmosphere against Braga.

"We're going to need it," Lennon said. However, even if Celtic fail to overcome their opponents, the manager insists he will not go searching for scapegoats.

"I won't close the door on anyone after two games," he said. "I know managers who've done that before and regretted it because they've had to go back to those players midway through a season and they haven't responded because of the way they were treated earlier on." (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Celtic (probable 4-4-2): Zaluska; Cha, Hooiveld, Loovens, Mulgrew; Juarez, Brown, Ki, Ledley; Samaras, Fortune.

Sporting Braga (probable 4-4-2): Felgueiras; Garcia, Moises, Rodriguez, Elderson; Alan, Vandino, Madrid, Cesar; Salino, Lima.

Irish Independent

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