Belfast Telegraph

Friday 25 July 2014

Neil Lennon: I'd love to have Mario Balotelli playing for Celtic

Mario Balotelli's AC Milan face Celtic tonight
Mario Balotelli's AC Milan face Celtic tonight

Neil Lennon, the Celtic manager, has revealed his admiration of Milan's controversial forward Mario Balotelli. The Scottish champions travel to San Siro tonight for their Champions League Group H opener with the Italian side struggling with a lengthy injury list.

But Balotelli is one player who is fit and set to start for Massimiliano Allegri's side, having already scored twice in three games for Milan in Serie A this season.

Lennon, whose side got to the last 16 of the competition last season, said: "Balotelli is a wonderful footballer. Having seen him live for the first time on Saturday [against Torino], he is very powerful, very skilful, takes the ball in under pressure from people and likes to get them turned. When he is in full flow he is very quick and strong, can hold defenders off, he is a good finisher.

"People question his temperament but I would have him in my team if I had the opportunity. He is young, he has so much ahead of him in his career."

Lennon is struggling to find sympathy for Milan's injury list. Allegri described his list of absentees as akin to a "wartime news bulletin" with Kaka, captain Riccardo Montolivo and fellow midfielder Andrea Poli all set to miss the visit of the Scottish champions. Forwards Stephan El Shaarawy and Giampaolo Pazzini are also out, along with defenders Ignazio Abate, Mattia De Sciglio, Matias Silvestre and Daniele Bonera.

Lennon , who revealed midfielder Joe Ledley was a "major doubt" with a groin injury and will also be without winger James Forrest and midfielder Beram Kayal, said: "It is very unfortunate for him that these injuries have come all at the one time and it is not an ideal situation. But I am sure as the season and the campaign progresses Milan as always will get better and stronger.I can't really offer up a lot of sympathy at this stage."

Kick-off 7.45pm.

TV Sky Sports 2 (h/l: 10pm, SS1)

Referee W Stark (Ger)

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