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Celtic fans still best in the world, says Neil Lennon

Neil Lennon admits the suspension of unruly Celtic supporters was inevitable following the trouble at last Friday night's Scottish Premiership game against Motherwell at Fir Park, but offered a robust defence of the Hoops support as a whole.

The Parkhead boss was speaking ahead of the final Champions League fixture against Barcelona at the Nou Camp tonight which has been, in part, overshadowed by off-field issues involving some Celtic fans.

The club suspended 128 fans and relocated 250 season-ticket holders following damage caused to seats at the stadium.

Smoke bombs and flares were also thrown during their 5-0 win against Well, while the Scottish Professional Football League described the scenes at Fir Park as "shameful" and promised an investigation.

Political banners displayed at Celtic's Champions League game against AC Milan last month have led to the club being called to a disciplinary hearing by Uefa, but Lennon tried to put it all in context.

"I think there was an air of inevitability about it (action taken by the club) and they have dealt with it as quickly and decisively and the best way they think going forward," he said.

"Look, our supporters are the best in the world bar none.

"We have had a few problems of late which the club are trying to deal with as swiftly and as best they can, but that is not going to take away from the fantastic support we have – not just in Britain but around the world – and the great relationships our supporters forge with other clubs and the respect both sets of supporters have for each other here (in Barcelona)."

Celtic, guaranteed to finish bottom of Group H, will be without Emilio Izaguirre through suspension, but Lennon welcomes back right-back Adam Matthews.

Skipper Scott Brown returns after missing the last three European games through suspension, following a clash with Barca star Neymar at Parkhead in October, which interested the local reporters more.

The Hoops boss said after the 1-0 defeat in Glasgow: "I don't think Neymar does himself any favours by the way he behaves at times."

Lennon stood by his comments on ahead of the rematch, although he was liberal in his praise of the Barca star.

He said: "We wont treat Neymar any differently from any of the other 10 or 11 world class players Barcelona have in their team.

"It was the first time I saw Neymar play live and I was very impressed and I think he will be a wonderful addition to the Barcelona team.

"I think he is very talented but I stand by what I said on the evening, I did think he made more of the contact than necessary.

"Scott knows he was in the wrong, he has served his punishment and I think he is looking forward to playing tomorrow."

e Barcelona's board of directors will make a decision in January on whether to expand the Nou Camp or submit plans to move to a new stadium.

The Spanish champions have commissioned a report over the viability of both projects with the objective to increase the capacity of their home ground to 105,000.

Belfast Telegraph


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