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Samaras tuned up for Lisbon mission

THE European Cup and Lisbon being synonymous for Celtic, there is bound to be a mighty queue of Hoops fans anxious to be photographed with the trophy at the Estadio Nacional – the scene of the club's epochal 1967 triumph.

Prior to their Champions League meeting with Benfica at the Estadio Da Luz tomorrow, Celtic will have the iconic silverware on site between 1.0 and 3.0 so that supporters can have their pictures added to an online gallery celebrating the 45 years since the Parkhead side became the first British team to conquer the continent.

It appears that Snoop Dogg is a fan of the club and of Georgios Samaras in particular and feels that, "if we (sic) are to go far in Europe, he needs to play well".

Neil Lennon, happily, had already come to the same conclusion and was pleased to see Samaras play all but 10 minutes of their victory over Aberdeen at Pittodrie, where the Greece striker set up the second goal for Charlie Mulgrew four minutes after Lassad Nouioui had put Celtic ahead late in the second half.


"Sami just came off because he was fatigued. He'd been out for a while but that game will have done him the world of good," said Lennon.

Kris Commons was another who had to make way before the end and there was anxiety when he limped off, but the injury was a dead leg and he should be available to face Benfica.

Less certain are Scott Brown, Gary Hooper and Joe Ledley, although the prognosis for them is optimistic – unlike that for James Forrest.

Celtic travel to Portugal this morning aware that a victory would put them into the knockout stages of the Champions League and that even a draw would virtually see them into the last 16, unless Spartak Moscow beat Barcelona in the Luzhniki Stadium – a prospect that cannot be discounted given Barca's defeat in Glasgow and the fact that the Russian side scored twice on their visit to the Nou Camp.

Lennon and his players can also catch their flight to the Portuguese capital having arrested their domestic slide – only two points from a possible nine prior to their visit to Pittodrie – with a result that sees them restored to pole position in the league, partly also as a consequence of Hibs' implosion against Dundee at Dens Park.

Irish Independent